life for pot

Alabama: Man Serving Life In Prison For Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

While the cannabis industry proceeds merrily along its profit-strewn path to the mainstream, a man in Alabama last year got sentenced to life in prison for selling the stuff.

It makes a big difference, you see, if you are a minority male in the Deep South selling marijuana, or if you are a monied entrepreneur in, say, Washington state or Colorado doing the same thing. If you were of the latter class and geography, you'd get a license from the state allowing you to carry on your business; if you were of the former, you'd get thrown in a cage until you die.

Houston County Circuit Court Judge Michael Conaway in February 2015 sentenced 39-year-old Richard Bolden of Dothan, Alabama, to life in prison for "trafficking marijuana." He gave Bolden an additional eight years for a felony first-degree bail jumping charge, to be served consecutively (not concurrently) with the life sentence, reports Matt Elofson at the Dothan Eagle.

U.S.: At Least 67 People Are Serving Life Sentences For Marijuana

LifeForPot[KCTV5]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

At least 67 people are serving life sentences in prison right now for marijuana in the United States.

The plight of marijuana lifers has received new attention since the release last week of Jeff Mizanskey, who had been one of them, reports Tony Dokoupil at MSNBC.

"Man, I feel great," Mizanskey, now a great-grandfather after serving more than 20 years in prison, said as he looked at his first weekend as a free man in two decades. His sentence was commuted in May from life without parole to simple life, and last week he walked out of a maximum security prison in Missouri.

Mizanskey was sentenced in 1996 for trying to distribute six pounds of Mexican weed. There was no violence involved, but he had two previous convictions for the possession and sale of marijuana totaling 10 ounces.

That meant, under Missouri law at the time, that he was a "persistent" drug offender, subject to any punishment short of the death penalty. That law is no longer in effect, but similar policies continue to fill American prisons.

More than 20 states have now legalized cannabis for one purpose or another, and with $22 billion in legal sales expected by 2020, marijuana is becoming another consumer product. But these new laws don't help people with past marijuana convictions, including some with sentences harsher than those for rape or murder.

Missouri: Jeff Mizanskey Walks Free After Serving Two Decades In Prison For Marijuana

JeffMizanskeyReleasedFromPrison[krgctv.com]

Jeff Mizanskey walked out of prison Tuesday morning a free man after spending 21 years behind bars because of a minor, nonviolent marijuana offense. Mizanskey walked into the arms of more than a dozen family, friends and supporters, including his son, who had fought for years for his dad's release from prison.

"I'm one of the lucky ones," Mizanskey said. "Now it's time to free the other victims of the war on drugs."

The 61-year-old became a symbol of the failed War On Drugs. His campaign for clemency attracted 391,254 Change.org petition signatures, a plea from the prosecutor who put him away, a bill proposed by Missouri Rep. Shamed Dogan, a letter for clemency from 126 Missouri lawmakers, billboards in prominent locations, including the state capitol of Jefferson City, a documentary about his plight, a commuted sentence from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and a successful review from the parole board.

“He saw rapists, murderers and child molesters get out of prison while he was sentenced to die behind bars for something that should not be a crime to begin with,” said his lawyer, Dan Viets. "Jeff's case is an example of the extremely harsh drug laws which have failed to reduce marijuana use but have wasted vast amounts of public money in the effort to enforce marijuana prohibition, disrupting the lives of good people who do not deserve to be treated like criminals."

Missouri: Man Serving Life In Prison For Marijuana Granted Parole

JeffMizanskeyMugshot[Fox4KC.com]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In a case of justice long delayed, a Missouri man serving life without parole for marijuana will be released from a maximum security prison, according to the man's son.

Jeff Mizanskey was told Monday morning that he has been granted parole, according to his son, Chris Mizanskey, report Michelle Pekarsky and Shannon O'Brien at Fox4KC.com. Chris said his dad should be released within 10 to 25 days.

According to Chris, his sad called him briefly Monday morning to share the good news. They planned to talk again Monday night.

Jeff Mizanskey has already been behind bars for more than two decades for marijuana offenses. He is now 62 years old.

"My father ... has been in prison since he was 41," reads part of a Change.org petition for Mizanskey's release. "His parents -- my grandparents -- have since passed. While my dad has been trapped behind bars, generations of kids and grandkids have been born into our family who have never even met the man.

"The State of Missouri spends roughly $22,000/year to keep him locked up," the petition reads. "Meanwhile all my dad wants to do is be a productive part of society, work and pay taxes, be with his family. And I want my dad back."

Missiouri Gov. Jay Nixon in May commuted Mizankey's sentence, allowing him to be considered for parole. The hearing was held last week.

Missouri: Man Given Life Sentence For Marijuana Has Sentence Commuted

JeffMizanskeyLifeForPot

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Twenty-two years after being arrested for marijuana -- and 19 years after being sentenced to life in prison for it -- Jeff Mizanskey on Friday had his sentenced commuted by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

Mizanskey, 62, was the only man in Missouri prisons serving life for pot, report Kevin S. Held and Anthony Kiekow at Fox 2 Now. He was arrested during an undercover drug operation in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1993, and was sentenced in 1996 under the state's Prior and Persistent Drug Offender Law, which is a three-strike, habitual offender system.

"The executive power to grant clemency is one I take with a great deal of consideration and seriousness," Nixon said in a press release announcing the commutation of Mizanskey's sentence, reports Danny Wicentowski at Riverfront Times. Nixon also pardoned five other nonviolent offenders.

"It's wonderful," said Michael Mizanskey, Jeff's brother. "Thank Jay Nixon for doing that, for finally looking at his case and doing the right thing.

"I'm very emotional," Michael said. "I've overjoyed he has a chance. In almost 22 years he had two write-ups, one for putting mail in the wrong slot and one for a messy floor. No fights, no nothing. Tell me that's not a model prisoner."

U.S.: Former Race Car Driver Randy Lanier To Be Released From Life In Prison For Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Federal marijuana prisoner Randy Lanier, 60, a former race car driver, will be released from prison after serving 26 years of a life sentence at the high-security Federal Correction Complex of Coleman in Florida for a 1988 conviction on leading a marijuana drug ring.

U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert has granted a motion by the federal government to reduce Lanier's life sentence and has approved his pending release, reports Jon Saraceno at Autoweek.com. Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. endorsed a proposal to reduce sentencing for convicted drug dealers, while seeking to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

"He has served his time with dignity and respect," said Stephen Ross Johnson, lead attorney for Lanier since 2002. "He has helped mentor young people in the prison system."

The brief order issued by Judge Gilbert gives no reason for the sentence reduction. In addition to his life sentence, Lanier was given an additional maximum of 40 years on a distribution charge and another five years on an IRS fraud charge.

Lanier's release comes with heavy restrictions, including drug-and-alcohol tests, no consumption of alcohol or patronizing of establishments that sell it, no firearms, and no lines of credit without approval from his probation officer.

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