The release Tuesday of Jeff Mizanskey from a life in prison sentence stemming from a marijuana-related charge could add a lot of muscle to the push in Missouri to legalize pot in the Show-Me State.
Mizanskey, 62, left the Jefferson City Correctional Center after serving nearly 20 years on a life sentence, saying that in his post-prison life he planned to seek a job and advocate for the legalization of marijuana. There are quite a few people who will be happy to have his help.
The Missouri marijuana legalization initiative may go on the Nov. 8, 2016, ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment. It would give people age 21 and older the right to produce, sell, distribute and consume marijuana and the right to manufacture products from hemp.
Public attitudes toward marijuana have changed a lot since Mizanskey was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for conspiring to sell 6 pounds of marijuana to a dealer connected with Mexican drug cartels. He had two prior drug convictions, which under Missouri law allowed for the harsh sentence. He was the only person in the state behind bars for life for a nonviolent marijuana-related offense.
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Fortunately for Mizanskey, Gov. Jay Nixon agreed in May to commute the sentence, which enabled Mizanskey to successfully argue before a parole board for his freedom, The Associated Press reports.
As early as next year, Missouri could join four other states and the District of Columbia, which have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Most notable among them are Colorado and Washington state.
Voters in those states in 2012 legalized marijuana for recreational use. Since then production and consumption of marijuana products have added to the Washington and Colorado economies in addition to providing the states with a new taxable source of revenue.