JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A Missouri man sentenced to life in prison for marijuana-related offenses has been released after spending two decades behind bars.
Jeff Mizanskey left the Jefferson City Correctional Center on Tuesday morning. His release was secured after heavy lobbying by family, lawmakers and marijuana-legalization advocates.
Police say Mizanskey conspired to sell 6 pounds of marijuana to a dealer connected to Mexican drug cartels. When convicted on that charge in 1996, he already had two drug convictions — for selling marijuana in 1984 and possession in 1991 — and was deemed a persistent drug offender.
Under a Missouri law, that allowed for a sentence of life in prison without parole. The law has since been changed.
"It's cruel and unusual. It's a shame. There's people in here that are in here for molesting children. And I've seen them come, go, and come again. And go. That's really what hurt me more than anything. Because here I was stuck forever. For marijuana," he said on Tuesday.
Gov. Jay Nixon commuted Mizanskey's sentence in May, making him eligible for parole.
Mizanskey had his own construction business before prison and hopes to return to construction. He says he will not be smoking marijuana because it is illegal in Missouri and could affect his parole. He will, however, advocate for its legalization and to free others with long prison terms because of it.