Jeff Mizanskey became a free man nearly a year ago, after serving more than two decades in the Jefferson City Correction Center for marijuana offenses. He was the only Missouri man sentenced to life without parole for marijuana possession and distribution under an outdated persistent offender sentencing law that has since been changed.

Chris and Jeff Mizanskey on Sep. 1, 2015 at the Jefferson City Correctional Center

Chris and Jeff Mizanskey on Sep. 1, 2015 at the Jefferson City Correctional Center

With the help of State Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) and Show Me Cannabis, nearly 400,000 petition signatures were gathered in support of freeing Mizanskey. Those signatures were delivered to Governor Jay Nixon (D), who commuted his sentence a few weeks later. The parole board granted his release and two weeks later, Mizanskey packed his bags and left prison.

Mizanskey now lives in Sedalia, the same town he lived in prior to serving his sentence. The man who once spent his days with hardcore criminals is now spending time getting acquainted with family, including some he hadn’t met until after leaving prison.

Mizanskey says the year has been an adjustment.

“There’s times in the middle of the night I’ll wake up and look around and have to realize where I’m at. I guess about two months after I was out, I kind of realized it,” says Mizanskey. “There’s still a lot of things that stick with a guy that’s been in for so long.”

Mizanskey says the cell phone era has also taken some getting used to. He has been traveling around the country for leisure and also to show his support for issues he’s passionate about, including the legalization of medical marijuana and changes to sentencing laws.

“I sat there and wondered many nights how the United States has lost its way when you figure smoking a joint and messing around with a little bit of cannabis is more harmful than these guys messing around with kids, raping women or hurting people. They were getting out, in some cases two and three times,” says Mizanskey. “When people get the option of using cannabis, they can use cannabis, the opioid use goes down and they don’t die. So the death rate is going down.”

By the time Mizanskey was released from prison, about $6,000 had been donated on a crowd funding website. Someone also donated a car to Mizanskey, which he says he has already put about 30,000 miles on. Mizanskey says the outpouring of support he’s received has been unfathomable.