09/04/15 Jeff Mizanskey

Jeff Mizanskey, just released from a life sentence for cannabis, Atty Dan Viets & Travis Maurer of Show-Me-Cannabis + DTN Editorial: Solution to diminishing violence on US streets

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, September 4, 2015
Guest: 
Jeff Mizanskey
Organization: 
Prisoner
Share

Comments

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

SEPTEMBER 4, 2015

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: Jeff Mizanskey is set to leave a Missouri prison.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE VOICE: Here he comes!

DEAN BECKER: After serving more than twenty-one years for a minor nonviolent marijuana offense.

[CHEERING]

DEAN BECKER: This is Cultural Baggage, the unvarnished truth about the drug war. Today, we will hear from Jeff's attorney Dan Viets, Travis Maurer of Show-Me Cannabis, but first, Mr. Jeff Mizanskey.

DEAN BECKER: Hi Jeff. I'm so happy for you, man. Great day yesterday, huh?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: It sure was, sure was. Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: But, it's a wonderful day, it's an example, I think, of the perseverance, the commitment of your friends and family and some organizations, to change the mindset of those that locked you up, right?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: That's true, that's exactly right. If it wasn't for them, I think I'd still be there, because nobody's paying attention to it, and, family got things started, and organizations kicked in, and of course the reporters, they're telling the story of just, you know, ridiculous and cruel and unusual the punishment was. They ran with it, people got behind it, and of course Representative Shamed Dogan, he put that bill in, and I can't say enough of all of them -- Show-Me Cannabis, and Mr. Dogan, they just really pushed all of this.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I've been speaking today with your attorney, Mr. Dan Viets, and the folks at Show-Me. Going to include that with this show, but the fact of the matter is, I want to talk about this. I'm 66, you're 62 -- right?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Right.

DEAN BECKER: And, if not for just a lot of luck, it could have been me. Back in the 60s and 70s, I was moving a lot of pounds and a lot of pills, and I think it's just something that younger people think they can get away with, and sometimes it falls on their head. Correct?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: How true it is. The thing is is, I really wasn't doing that, that's what was really crazy. But, I mean, I dabbled a little bit, I'd smoke and some, and then we'd have a little brick that we'd split it up between, you know, we'd buy some and split it up between us, but they -- because I was there, and the people that were there, even though I didn't know them, and had never met them, they got me for acting in concert.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Some sort of conspiracy.

JEFF MIZANSKEY: There you go.

DEAN BECKER: And that happens all too often, I mean, the fact of the matter is, we have a lot, we've had I think it's 45 million people arrested on drug charges since you and I have been alive, and we haven't stopped the flow, we haven't prevented the cartels and the gangs from making that money, we haven't done anything positive, have we?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Well, you know, I think, if anything else, I think it's grown. I think the cartels are getting stronger, they're putting more and more stuff out, it doesn't make any sense to have that money going over the border like that, when United States infrastructure's falling apart, our schools need money, our roads need money, bridges need fixed. Why don't we legalize it, tax it, use it like it should be used, and get some of this stuff fixed. Look how many people could be put to work.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

JEFF MIZANSKEY: I mean, in hemp alone, if you let some of these farmers grow hemp, you know, you get your oils, you get your clothing, you get all kinds of different things, you know, different people could use and make different jobs out of.

DEAN BECKER: Well, they say this --

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Paper, everything, you know, it's just crazy.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and they say the seeds alone are very nutritious, and you know, healthful, and --

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Exactly.

DEAN BECKER: And yet, we just go down this same path. Well, let's talk about your sentence. It's over 21 years now?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: It's 21 and, I think about three months short of 22 years.

DEAN BECKER: And you're not the only one though, that's what's really horrific, there are other people locked up for life without parole for marijuana charges as well. It's --

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Yeah. I think I was the only one in Missouri, but I understand a lot of these other states have them, and I understand even the federal government has some. So, you know, I got to check into that further, but this is what I've been told.

DEAN BECKER: And, you know --

JEFF MIZANSKEY: It's ridiculous.

DEAN BECKER: It is ridiculous, and meantime I saw a couple of new reports, some other reporters had done with you, and you were talking about, while you were locked up, there were child molesters that came into prison, left the prison, and came back and left again, and you were still there.

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Exactly right.

DEAN BECKER: It's just --

JEFF MIZANSKEY: You're right. Not only child molesters, but, I mean, all kinds of crimes. And it just didn't make no sense to me, I mean, I was really wondering about our country, how things could get turned upside down so badly. It just kind of reminds me of, one time I was doing an interview with a reporter, and they said, you know, now picture yourself out there living next door to a woman that's got two or three young kids, living there by herself having to raise them, and how can you convince her it would be a good thing to have you living next door to her? And I said, that would be pretty easy. All you'd have to do is ask her, you want to have a child molester living next to her or do you want to have somebody that might light a bit and sit in there smoking a joint?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Or, you know, somebody that might come and kill your family. I mean, it just, because them people are getting out, and they're living next door to them now. And, it's topsy-turvy, it just doesn't make any sense.

DEAN BECKER: You indicated that you're not going to take up pot smoking because it's still illegal at the federal level, and you told your mom you weren't going to break any more laws and I applaud you for that, sir, for your commitment. But you are going to work to change these laws, are you not?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Yes, I plan on it, as much as they'll let me. Of course, you know, I'm on parole, so I've got to follow the guidelines and the rules, but I do plan on advocating for legalization of marijuana, at least medically if not all the way across the board, which I think it should be, because, I mean, even look at medically, look at, I've seen where these little children are having these epileptic things, and passing out. Right? And they give them some of these oils, and they're down from 50, 60 a day to one or two. I mean, my god, the writing's on the wall, why won't somebody stop and read it?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah, who can deny these children the potential benefit of this medicine? it is outrageous. Folks, once again, we're speaking with Mr. Jeff Mizanskey, just got out of prison yesterday after serving 21 years behind bars. Jeff, is there, I don't know, is there training, is there hope within prison, what do they do to help you before you're released?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Well, you know, they had some programs there, but unfortunately most of the guys are made to go these programs. Myself, I volunteered years ago, I wanted to learn because I wanted to help others that were in there, and I wanted to learn how to talk to them and things that I could use to help them. So I volunteered and went through it, so I'm there to learn things. But when you're forced to go through a program, you're just sitting there like a bump on a log, you're really not learning nothing.

DEAN BECKER: Sure.

JEFF MIZANSKEY: But, you know, state gets paid for that, so they've got to have some of the people sitting in there. If they change the laws and some light at the end of the tunnel, get these guys to say hey, you know, you go to these programs and we're going to take a look at this and maybe give you some good time, you know, we're going to look at your record before you went in, during while you're in, and after, and if we see some good improvement, we're going to cut some slack and give you a chance. I think it could do a whole lot better.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jeff, the fact of the matter is, you know, you were sent away on a three-strikes situation, if you will, which all came to play during the 80s and early 90s, when we locked up thousands of other prisoners for, in many cases, just minor charges, but they happen to be drug related. How many other folks did you see in there that were, you know, sentenced in for these minor type charges?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Oh, there's quite a few of them in it for marijuana. Actually, I ran across one that, he recognized me on TV and told me he was in there for marijuana, and I think it was only his second year he was in there, and he said, man, he said, it's ridiculous what you got, it's just so cruel, it doesn't make any sense. And I said yeah, I know. He said, I'm in here for marijuana. I said oh yeah? And he says yeah, he says, I had 350 pounds. I said 350 pounds! I'm thinking, man, they buried this guy. You know?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

JEFF MIZANSKEY: And he said yeah, they gave me five years. And I said wow. And it was his second or third time, too. So, that was crazy. But they've got another guy that's in there, he's doing 15 years. He had like six little seedlings. I don't think they'd have weighed a gram if you'd have put them all together, from the way I read it. And he got 15 years.

DEAN BECKER: So it all depends --

JEFF MIZANSKEY: It just doesn't make sense, does it?

DEAN BECKER: No. It all depends on your attorney, and the district attorney, and the judge, and who's having a bad day, I guess.

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Yeah, depends on who you go in front of, and, you know, it's just being in the United States of America. And I love this country, but anymore, when somebody goes to court, if they decide to take someone to court, they'd better really be prepared because, you know, our country, we grew up that you were innocent until proven guilty, and unfortunately, it's not like that anymore. Now, you've been arrested so you must be guilty, so you're guilty until you prove yourself innocent, and then you better have an awful good case with a hundred witnesses, and if they've got one, it will probably go against you. It just seems to be like the mindset of people. Fortunately, I think that, everything that's been going on, and the mindset of the people realizing marijuana's not the bad drug that they thought it was, they've been told that it was, you know, lied to. Things are starting to change.

Shamed Dogan, he, man I didn't know that man from Adam, he just stepped in and said man, I've heard about your case, and you know, out of the blue he called me up here from work. I walked in there and here's two representatives talking to me, and this guy just got put in the office. I don't think he'd been in there two or three weeks. He said, I heard about your case and I don't think it's right, and I think it's unfair, and he says, I'd really like to talk to you about it. We sat and talked a little bit, all the representatives. He said, well I know it's not right, said good talking to you, he says, I'm going to do something about it. I'm going to put a bill in to get you out. And that's the kind of person he is. You know, he cares about the little guy, he cares about the people, you know. It's supposed to be We The People running the government, but it's not, it's the government running We The People. And that doesn't make any sense, I mean, that's not what America was put together on, that's not how we grew up as a nation. Unfortunately, it's going that way.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jeff, I'm sure that was a day that lifted your heart and soul, when you started hearing that from that representative.

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Oh yes, yes, it was kind of, you know, it's kind of hard to believe, and I didn't know how to take it at first. But then I started seeing things on TV, and then they've put the -- then I heard the bill was going in, and of course Show-Me Cannabis is keeping me apprised of everything. And I was thinking, boy, this might really do it this time, you know. Been let down so many times trying to get through, thanks to a court that should have went through and didn't go through. Got, you know, got to thinking, boy, it's not really working.

And then couple more representatives come up after that, and said well, you know, Mr. Dogan asked me to come check into this, and they asked quite a few questions. Before they left, they said, well we're behind you, we're going to do what we can to get you out of here. You know, before they were done, they had, I don't have the paperwork yet, but they had about 130 signatures from representatives and senators. I mean that was really unheard of. We tried to put a thing together about a year or two before that, and I think we got maybe 25 or 30 signatures. Nobody would commit, it just seemed like, yeah, well, that's not right, but they just wouldn't commit, they wouldn't put their name on the dotted line, you know? But, it took somebody like that.

DEAN BECKER: Let's hope this is a sign that the dam is breaking and that all those others that are still locked up on marijuana charges will get a fair hearing and a new look at their prosecution.

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Well, I, you know what I really hope is, I'm hoping that maybe we can get some kind of bill passed through Senate, Congress, and get the president to sign it, and if nothing else, maybe we can get some kind of bill put together where everybody can sign and get it on a ballot, where everybody across the nation could vote on it and let these people know. You know, I think a lot of the main key of doing any of that is the people, stick together, and not just say they're going to do something but actually do it. Actually call their representatives, call their congressman, tell them this is what we want. Because you know, this ain't right what's going on. If we do that, maybe we the people can get some action.

DEAN BECKER: Jeff, it looks like, you know, there's hope on the horizon for all those that are still locked up, and as you say, those who know this truth have been afraid to speak it for years if not decades now, but it's time to stand forth for logic and proportion and reality itself, isn't it?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: What gets me is, I don't know why Greenpeace or some outfits like that don't get behind this, because I think it's for two and a half acres of marijuana you can save six or seven acres of trees, you get the same amount of pulp for paper. I mean, that's a no-brainer.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and you don't have to spend thirty years growing those trees, you can just do it every year.

JEFF MIZANSKEY: There you go. There you go. And that's just from the stems, everything else you get from it is extra besides that. Think of how many mom and pop farms could be saved across the country if they could grow a crop of that -- you know, to go along with their other crops, because it grows pretty good, pretty easy, from what I understand.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I'm a Texas boy who used to grow, and I can tell you, we grow it 26 feet tall without even trying. Jeff, I tell you what, I know you've got friends and family and you just want to celebrate this moment, and I don't want to take up any more of your time, but I want to say this: I've been following your story, I'm following the story of many others that are locked up for marijuana charges, and I'm doing what I can. My group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, we're trying our best to educate and motivate, and folks like you, with your attitude and your understanding, you're going to help make that change as well. Any closing thoughts you'd like to share?

JEFF MIZANSKEY: Well, I sure hope so. I hope if nothing else, nobody else has to ever go through what I did, because it's just a shame to have to lock somebody up for marijuana and turn around and let hard-core criminals out because they have no room, or some silly law that shouldn't have been put into effect to start with, because maybe somebody wanted to make some money another way, or you know, something like that. It's just nonsense. It's about time the United States took, the people took back our government, took back and let them know this is what we're going to do. We're tired of listening to all these little things that you do as far as your spin, your lies, and we don't want to hear what you think we want to hear, we want to hear what you're going to do.

We want to know the truth. The heck with all the spin, we need to really know what's going on so we can make an educated guess. And you know what, if politicians get in there and they don't do what they said they're going to do, dammit, we need to vote them out. It's time the majority starts ruling and let the minority sit back, because look where it's got us the way it is. It's just a shame, our prisons are all full. We've got more people locked up in the United States per capita than any nation in the world, from what I've been reading any my understanding. People, I think there's something wrong. We need to address it. We need to stick together, and if you're for it, don't sit there and think about your floor, talk to your neighbors, talk to your friends, talk to anybody that will listen, and give them some of the facts. Learn the facts, give them the facts about the good of it, you know, what's good about it, and if you can find anything bad about it, let them know that too, because it gives them an educated feel about it, honestly, I mean, not explaining it the way the government's been giving it to us for years. I think if they did that, I think we'd get any bill passed and signed into law if we want to do it, because we the people would do it. Together, we're strong. I thank you.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. Loss of personal freedom, family, and possessions. Ineligible for government funding, education, licensing, housing or employment. Loss of aggressive mindset in a dangerous world. This drug’s peaceful, easy feeling may be habit forming. Time's up! The answer: Doobie, jimmy, joint, reefer, spliff, jibber, jay, biffa, jazz, blunt, steege, greener, cracker, hogger, bone, carrot, maryjane, marijuana, cannabis sativa. Made by God. Prohibited by man.

Here to fill us in more about the situation with Mr. Jeff Mizanskey is his attorney, Mr. Dan Viets. How are you, sir?

DAN VIETS: Doing well, thank you.

DEAN BECKER: My hat's off to you. The situation made me cry, when I saw him hugging his children, stepping out of that prison. Well done, sir.

DAN VIETS: Thank you very much.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Dan, the fact of the matter is, he's not alone. He's not the only person been locked up for decades if not for a life sentence for marijuana, is he?

DAN VIETS: No, he's certainly not. He is the only person that we know of who is serving life without parole in Missouri who has only been convicted of marijuana offenses. If there are others out there, we certainly want to know about them and will try to help them, too. But we think and we hope that Jeff was the only man in -- or woman, in those circumstances in the state of Missouri. There are certainly federal prisoners who are serving life, essentially without possibility of parole, for marijuana offenses, but most of them are far, far larger, not that that justifies it, but Jeff's case really is unique because his prior felony drug offenses involved very small amounts of marijuana, and he's never even been accused of an act of violence in his entire life. So, he's the only person we've found who has been convicted only of small marijuana offenses, and who was ordered to serve life without possibility of parole as a consequence.

DEAN BECKER: Now Dan, there's been Doctor Sanjay Gupta and there's been all kinds of positive medical perspective being put forward, but there's also now the four states and Washington, DC, with legal marijuana. Has that helped to move the barrier to allow this release of Mr. Jeff Mizanskey?

DAN VIETS: Yes, almost certainly, it absolutely has. I mean, there were many, many factors, and many, many people who worked hard to get Jeff out of prison, but there's clearly a shift, a fundamental shift in the attitudes of the American public, and here in Missouri in the attitudes of the Missouri General Assembly, and the governor. The General Assembly here, our legislature, is heavily dominated by Republicans, and even the Democrats are pretty conservative Democrats, but even among those folks, we have been gratified at the great level of support there is for marijuana law reform. Not only did 126 members of our legislature sign a letter urging the governor to grant clemency to Jeff Mizanskey, but they also passed last year alone a half dozen reforms of our marijuana laws, which are certainly substantial improvements.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Dan, it seems like we've maybe rounded the corner, let's certainly hope so. Would you like to share your website, some closing thoughts for the listeners?

DAN VIETS: Well, yeah, folks are welcome to contact ShowMeCannabis.org, or to contact me directly at DanViets@gmail.com.

TRAVIS MAURER: My name is Travis Maurer, I'm the co-founder of Show-Me Cannabis Missouri, and the National Cannabis Coalition, which is a national organization, forwarding its efforts to legalize cannabis across the country, mainly in Oregon and Missouri.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir, now, I just spoke with Mr. Dan Viets, the attorney for Mr. Jeff Mizanskey, and you were instrumental in helping motivate folks to release him. Correct?

TRAVIS MAURER: Yeah, you know, I'd say the organization as a whole is really who is responsible. We have a great team of activists in Missouri who are some of the very best in the country, and they've worked very diligently over the last year lobbying the legislature and the governor to commute Jeff's sentence so he could get out of prison.

DEAN BECKER: I saw the video of the reunion. It brought tears to my eyes to see the happiness that that family was enjoying as he stepped out of prison. Your thoughts on that release and the others that are still locked up awaiting similar release.

TRAVIS MAURER: Yeah, so, it was definitely moving, and exciting to see somebody as kind-hearted and good as Jeff Mizanskey getting out to embrace his family and be free once again, be whole with his family. I think most Americans in my opinion wouldn't want to see somebody suffer for 21 years of their life in prison because of marijuana, so I think it was a very emotional moment, not just for their family, but I think for a lot of people because I think most people see the wrong, the exact nature of the wrongs and the laws and how they've affected their family.

As far as our future efforts and moving forward, look: the drug war is a failed war. It's taken a toll on millions of Americans' lives, disproportionately to our minority friends. That is really the crux of the problem. I know marijuana law reform is big, and a hot topic right now, but the truth of the matter is that the drug laws need to be reformed so that we treat this as a health issue and not as a criminal issue, and stop pitting law enforcement against ordinary citizens who might decide to do drugs or might have a problem with drugs.

DEAN BECKER: I think you just nailed it right there, my friend. Is there a website, closing thoughts?

TRAVIS MAURER: You can text Jeff to 420420, or you can visit ShowMeCannabis.com or drugpolicy.org, and learn more about how you can get involved and how the drug war has affected our country.

DEAN BECKER: The following is a Drug Truth Network editorial. I was a cop, decades ago. I pinned on that badge, strapped on my weapon, and swore to uphold the constitution of these United States. My experience in law enforcement, 66 years of living, and my 15 years of investigating this eternal drug war, allows me to speak on the deaths by and of policemen. I'm against it. Flat out, no way, no how, nowhere.

However, since I strapped on that old .38 revolver, much has changed. I learned judo and disarming tactics, and was taught to deal equally with all encounters -- black, white, young, old, drunk, senile, or deranged. The word most often proffered as a solution to any problem was respect. In the decades since I took off the badge, much has changed: new levels of fear, loathing, true paranoid mannerisms have been taught, and continually reinforced to police by academy instructors, law enforcement videos and magazines, and reinforced daily if not quite validated via media coverage of America's war on the confused, delusional, or even handicapped citizens of the United States.

But since I left law enforcement, two now boogeymen have emerged to frighten the American people: drugs and terror. Two wars crafted from ignorance and bigotry, destined to last til the end of time. These wars have devastated huge chunks of our constitution, and basic rights, and freedom, all the while giving more reach and allowance to our police to police, maim, and murder innocent civilians who made the mistake of reaching for their wallet, answering their phone, opening their front door, or raising their hands over their head. The answer to this problem lies in changing law enforcement attitudes. Most black people are peace-loving individuals, worthy of respect by police at every encounter. Most Mexicans and chicanos don't carry a switchblade, do not deal drugs, and are worthy of respect. Very few Asians are terrorists, their clothing may be unusual, but they are certainly worthy of law enforcement respect. The only good hippie is not a dead hippie, long hair and weird clothes, tattoos and piercings, are a sign of individuality, and worthy of respect.

Until law enforcement begins to once again treat citizens how they would like to be treated, I am certain the death toll will continue to rise on both sides with about 40 or 50 US citizens being killed for every cop that gets gunned down. The solution: end the war on drugs, end the war of terror. Neither one can ever be won, they can only be lost on a daily basis on the city streets of America.

Well, that's about all we can squeeze in. I want to thank Jeff Mizanskey for his courage, I want to thank his attorney Dan Viets, and I want to thank Travis Maurer of Show-Me Cannabis. Next week, we're going to bring focus to bear on your need to call the drug czar to encourage him to come onto this show and to clarify the need for an eternal war on drugs. This will be done in conjunction with an article I produced for Free Press Houston. Please educate yourself before you write or call the drug czar. Visit DrugTruth.net.

As always, I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

Tap dancing on the edge of an abyss .....