Justice served: A Missouri man is free after serving 19 years of a life sentence for selling pot.

In 1996, Jeff Mizanskey was sentenced to life in prison for selling marijuana. On September 1, 2015, he was finally released.

Photo via Free Jeff Mizanskey/Facebook.


When Mizanskey was convicted, Missouri law allowed anyone who could be considered a "persistent drug offender" to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Since Mizanskey had already been convicted of two drug offenses, he was sent away for life.

After nearly 20 years behind bars, his family was shocked and thrilled in May when they heard that Governor Jay Nixon had decided to commute his sentence to include the possibility of parole.

They were even more thrilled when parole was almost immediately granted.

"There's probably not enough words to describe how awesome it was and amazing of a day it was to get my dad back," Chris Mizanskey, Jeff's son, told Upworthy.

Jeff and Chris MIzanskey. Photo via Free Jeff Mizanskey/Facebook.

"It really did take the times to change, and people to start realizing that marijuana wasn't the evil drug they made it out to be."

Chris credits the the successful legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington, and petition drives held by groups in Missouri for helping change public attitudes about marijuana, persuading lawmakers to support his father's release.

Mizanskey's original sentence was highly unusual for his crime, even by the often-draconian standards of drug convictions in many U.S. states.

Photo via Free Jeff Mizanskey/Facebook.

A clemency petition written by Mizanskey's lawyers notes that, while Mizanskey was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to sell seven pounds of marijuana, the "leader of an international organization importing and distributing multi-ton shipments," was sentenced to only eight years in prison.

It goes on to mention that the subject of the "biggest maritime marijuana arrest on the West Coast," was sentenced to 10 years, and released after serving only four.

Despite the increased support for criminal justice reform from policymakers, drug offenders continue to turn up in prisons at alarming rates.

A report from the FBI cites drug abuse violations as the single highest arrest category in the United States, with over 1.5 million arrests in 2012.

As of July 2015, drug offenders were the single highest subpopulation in federal prisons, nearly triple the next highest category.

A spokesperson for Governor Nixon's office declined to comment on whether the governor would be issuing more sentence commutations to non-violent drug offenders.

Now that he's free, Mizanskey plans to advocate for the legalization of marijuana.

"He's going to advocate for legalization. He doesn't want anyone else to be stuck in his situation," Chris said.

"No one really does belong in jail for a plant."

In the meantime, his family is overjoyed to have him back after the long struggle to free him.

Jeff meeting his great-granddaughter for the first time. Photo via Free Jeff Mizanskey/Facebook.

"He'll be here the rest of his life and the rest of mine, and that's the best thing in the world," said Chris.

And the celebration doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

"Oh my goodness, I think he's ate so much food we're going to have to go join a gym."

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.