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Justice Overserved: 21 Years for Pot

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After serving 21 years, a Missouri man who was sentenced to life in prison for pot walked free morning. Jeff Mizanskey was arrested in 1993 for his third non-violent marijuana offense. Thanks to the errantly popular three strikes law of the day, he was subsequently slapped with a life sentence with no possibility for parole.

It’s been 21 years. To put this into perspective, former Subway spokesman, Jared Fogle is looking at 5-12.5 years for raping 14 children, and those are just the ones the prosecution can prove. Yet an entire life was nearly thrown away over a plant, all because the “tough on crime” mantra was worth a few points in the polls for self-serving politicans looking to solidify power.

Thankfully, times have changed and the citizenry has begun to rethink the draconian approach of previous decades. For the strides forward, we can thank not the demagogues of the mainstream political machine, but the activists and fringe candidates who have tirelessly pushed to shift policy rhetoric from drug war hysteria to something a touch more sensible. Responding to a petition with close to 400,000 signatures that urged Mizanskey’s release, Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon commuted his sentence this past May, which brought him up for a parole hearing just under a month ago. The decision for the parole board was an easy one and the 61-year-old was given a new lease on life. This morning, just before 8am, Mizanskey walked out the doors of Jefferson City Correctional facility as a (relatively) free man.

Sadly, since he was granted parole rather than given a pardon, Mizanskey will most likely still be obliged to report to the authorities regularly, submit to invasive drug tests and live out the remainder of his time on this earth as a convicted felon. Without a full pardon, he’ll never again retain the right to own a firearm, vote in an election, or even assert his rights when stopped and harassed by police officers. He’ll more or less be a second class citizen for the mere crime of possessing what many states now consider medicine.