Every hour, another person is arrested for marijuana possession in Missouri. Although it’s a non-violent crime, there is one man serving a life sentence with no chance for parole. In the case of Jeff Mizanskey, Show-Me Cannabis believes it’s time to reform the laws that led to his incarceration. Executive Director John Payne, a Nebula member, is working with Jeff’s son Chris Mizanskey to fight for Jeff’s release after 21 years in jail.
In 1993 Jeff gave an acquaintance, Atilano Quintana, a ride to help move furniture. It turned out Atilano was also moving seven pounds of marijuana, and both men were arrested and charged with possession and intent to distribute. Atilano spent 10 years in prison. Jeff was handed a life sentence without the possibility of parole because of previous minor, non-violent charges for marijuana. The decision was one of several made under Missouri’s Prior and Persistent Offender law, which has since been repealed.
In their advocacy work with Chris, Show-Me Cannabis has initiated letter writing campaigns to the governor asking him to grant clemency. They have also gathered almost 400,000 signatures on a change.org petition. This past October they even purchased a billboard with an appeal to citizens to contact Governor Nixon. The billboard is strategically placed next to the Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City.
After avoiding the topic for over a year, Governor Nixon finally announced last month that he would give the case a “hard look.” And, in the meantime, State Representative Shamed Dogan (R– Ballwin) has introduced HB978. This new bill would require the state to release any prisoners serving life sentences for offenses involving only marijuana. HB978 had its first hearing with the House Corrections Committee this month and appears to be moving forward.
Working toward freeing Jeff Mizanksey has been a slow process and will likely continue to be. But the members of Show-Me Cannabis have shown that they are in it for the long haul, and their hard work and patience have started to pay off. The progress with Governor Nixon and the House of Representatives is a win for Show-Me Cannabis.
The organization is Missouri’s leading voice for marijuana law reforms, including decriminalization and legalization. They’ve run media campaigns, hosted educational events and lobbied in the state capital and in city halls across Missouri. Nebula was proud to host a Show-Me Cannabis panel discussing the future goals for law reform back in November, and we look forward to working with them in the future.