Sporting new shoes, convicted felon Jeff Mizanskey has left prison – and a life sentence -- to embark on what he hopes is a new life.
A native of Sedalia, Mizanskey has become a national symbol of the movement to decriminalize pot.
He has been in prison for at least 20 years after he was convicted for his role in a friend’s sale of marijuana to undercover police. Because it was Mizanskey’s third drug offense, he was sentenced to life in prison under the old “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” law that since has been struck down.
In May, Gov. Jay Nixon commuted Mizanskey’s sentence, making him eligible for parole. His conviction will still stand.
Now 62, Mizanskey said Tuesday that he hopes to resurrect his old home-improvement business.
He also plans to assist a fledgling campaign to ease or eliminate Missouri’s laws against marijuana.
“It’s really a travesty what the United States does to people that smoke marijuana,” Mizanskey said. “It should never be that way. Medical uses are so important.”
John Payne, executive director of the Missouri-based group “Show Me Cannabis,” said Wednesday his group hopes to file a ballot proposal later this month. But it will only propose to legalize marijuana for medical use, he said.
Family and supporters had been arguing for years that Mizanskey’s sentence was too stiff for a nonviolent crime.
State Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, has been among Mizanskey’s most vocal allies. Dogan says he doesn’t supportlegalizing marijuana, but he does support easing sentences and incarceration for nonviolent crimes.
“Who in their right mind would start a drug war that costs as much as it does,” Dogan said, “Building new prisons, putting people in prison, putting people in jail, spending law-enforcement resources on nonviolent crimes, when in my city of St. Louis, we have a crime epidemic?”
St. Louis Public Radio's Marshall Griffin contributed to this article.