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Government, Politics & Issues

Supporters Step Up Efforts To Win Clemency For Inmate With Life Sentence For Marijuana

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Supporters of a Missouri prison inmate serving life without parole for a marijuana conviction are stepping up their efforts to persuade Gov. Jay Nixon to grant clemency.

Jeff Mizanskey, 61, of Sedalia, had two prior nonviolent convictions for possessing and selling marijuana when he was convicted a third time and sentenced in 1996 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He had been arrested in 1993 in a drug sting involving five pounds of marijuana. His brother, Mike Mizanskey, says all of Jeff's appeals have been exhausted.

"We are not asking for a full pardon, just clemency, so we can correct this injustice," Mike said. "Jeff takes responsibility for his actions...I'm here today to tell his story, in hopes that Gov. Jay Nixon will take time to look over his petition for clemency and give my brother his life back."

Aaron Malin with the group Show-Me Cannabis says that in his opinion, Mizanskey's sentence fits the legal definition of cruel and unusual punishment.

"He never brandished a weapon; he never sold to children; he was, by all accounts, somebody with a full-time construction job who sold some marijuana on the side," Malin said.  "That was against the law and he should have been punished for that, but we feel as though the sentence didn't fit the crime committed."

Mizanskey submitted a clemency petition to Nixon in October 2013.  A spokesman for the governor says the clemency request remains under review.

Show-Me Cannabis has also rented a billboard across the Missouri River from the state Capitol in support of Mizanskey's clemency request.  Earlier this year, the state passed a revised criminal code that will no longer allow someone to be sentenced to life without parole for a nonviolent drug offense, Malin also said.

The latest efforts to win clemency for Mizanskey come at a time when many states are loosening their restrictions against marijuana use. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow for medical use of marijuana, including Missouri's neighbor to the east, Illinois.  This year, both Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use.

While medical use of marijuana remains illegal in Missouri, Gov. Nixon signed legislation this year allowing the use of hemp extract for medical use, specifically for children with autism.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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