MISSOURI: A new Missouri bill would grant clemency to inmates serving life sentences for marijuana-related offenses, which could help a 61-year-old man who’s already served 20 years.
Under House Bill 978, introduced by Rep. Shamed Dogan (R), nonviolent offenders who have only been convicted for marijuana offenses and were sentenced to life in prison would be released on August 28. This may be good news for Jeff Mizanskey, an oft-discussed offender who was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1996, for possessing seven pounds of marijuana — his third cannabis offense. In 2013, Mizanskey and his son, Chris, asked Gov. Jay Nixon asked for clemency, and Nixon has since agreed to investigate Mizanskey’s case within the next few years. If Bill 978 passes, the prisoner will be released much sooner than anticipated.
But Mizanskey isn’t alone. According to one report, there are at least 25 others serving life sentences without parole for pot charges in the United States. Those individuals are among 3,278 inmates across the country who are serving life sentences for non-violent crimes with no chance of parole. And while many people are given much shorter sentences for drug offenses, an ACLU report found that there were 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010.
The same ACLU report concluded that African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people, so bills like the one in Missouri have racial implications as well.