Drugs

Activism Freed One Marijuana Lifer, But Other Pot Prisoners Still Need Our Help

Jeff Mirzanskey is free after 22 years in prison in Missouri, but Bernard Noble is still serving a 13-year sentence for two joints in Louisiana.

More than 1,500 folks from 71 countries met in the DC Metro area last month at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference to come up with an exit strategy from the unwinnable war on drugs. The gathering left people inspired and energized.

One of the people who attended the conference was Jeff Mizanskey. Jeff was just released from prison a couple of months ago after serving 22 years behind bars. Jeff was serving a life sentence for marijuana. The draconian sentence was because of Missouri’s three strikes laws. All three of Mizanskey's offenses involved marijuana. He was given a life sentence after being convicted for attempting to sell about six pounds of pot in a 1993 police sting operation. Thankfully, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) commuted Jeff’s life sentence and he came home after two decades behind bars.

Jeff addressed the crowd of 1,500 at the closing ceremony. Jeff’s words and wisdom left many in tears. This is Jeff’s first conference as he has been locked up for 20 years. He can’t believe how much has changed with marijuana legalization and the industry since he was away. He tells the crowd that we have to legalize marijuana so we don’t ruin other lives with arrests and incarceration.  He talks about the people he left behind and the devastating consequences of incarceration on families and communities. He thanks the crowd and calls them family for all of the work that was done to help get him clemency.

Another man whose life has been ruined by draconian marijuana laws is Bernard Noble. Noble is serving 13 years behind bars for two joints worth of marijuana. Like Jeff, Noble has two other small drug possession charges from his past, and these two joints trigged a 13 year sentence.

The Drug Policy Alliance and others are calling on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to grant Bernard Noble clemency and for his release.  Mr. Noble has already served more than four years behind bars and still had 9 more years to go. The media is picking up on the story and there are big pieces in theTimes-Picayune and the Huffington Post. A Change.org petition started by Bernard’s mother has 70,000 signatures.

The war on drugs is a war on people. There are 500,000 people behind bars tonight for a drug offense. Our activism brought home Jeff Mizanskey. We need to bring home Bernard Noble too. And we need systemic change to bring home the hundreds of thousands of drug war POWs still there.

 

Tony Newman is communications director for the Drug Policy Alliance.
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