Jeff Mizanskey to be freed Tuesday after 21 years on pot charges
JEFFERSON CITY - Jeff Mizanskey is scheduled to walk free Tuesday morning, 21 years after he was sentenced to life without parole for a series of marijuana convictions.
His family will be waiting outside the Jefferson City Correctional Center when Mizanskey exits sometime between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., according to his attorney, Dan Viets.
During a July interview at the facility, Mizanskey said he plans to spend the rest of his life enjoying his family, working with youth offenders and advocating for marijuana reform.
But he said he will not smoke marijuana again, not even in states where it is legal, as long as it remains a federal offense. He said he told his mother before she died he would do everything he could to get out of prison and "that I'd never do anything knowingly to break the law to get put back in."
Mizanskey was sentenced to life in prison without parole as a "prior and persistent offender" on May 24, 1994, after he was found taking part in the purchase of several pounds of marijuana. He had previously been convicted twice of possession of more than 35 grams, in 1984 and 1991.
He was sentenced at a time when three-strikes laws were increasing in popularity and there was a national crackdown on drugs, fueled in part, by the crack cocaine epidemic.
In an online petition, Mizanskey's son, Chris Mizanskey wrote: "For my father's final strike in 1993, he became an easy fall guy in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana. My dad was driving a friend to a deal that turned out to be a sting operation. All of the other convicted men involved were set free years ago, but my dad was given a virtual death sentence"
Jeff Mizanskey has repeatedly said the separation from his family has been the hardest part of serving time.
"It's not just one person getting arrested, it's the whole family that suffers."
The picture below shows Mizanskey with his sons, Chris and Robert, before his last conviction.
Chris Mizanskey said he's most looking forward to being able to "sit down and actually talk to my dad without getting up and having to leave at the end of it and saying, 'you know, I'll see you next time.'"
The online petition he started got nearly 400,000 signatures. Show-Me Cannabis began a major push to sway public opinion in Jeff Mizanskey's favor, including the placement of billboards, like the one below, along Missouri highways.
Several Missouri lawmakers began advocating for clemency for Mizanskey and the statute he was convicted under has been repealed effective in January of 2017.
In May of this year, Gov. Jay Nixon announced he was commuting Mizanskey's sentence, saying "In the case of the commutation, my action provides Jeff Mizanskey with the opportunity to demonstrate that he deserves parole."
Mizanskey told the parole board he had been a model prisoner, working steadily making furniture in the shop and staying out of trouble. Earlier this month he learned the board had granted his release.
Show-Me Cannabis has started a "going home" fund for Mizanskey, which has raised more than $6800 of its $25,000 goal.