12.31.2015
policy

5 People Who've Been Sentenced to Life for Weed

Dying behind bars because of a green flower that can't kill you is harsh.

Legal pot shops and medical marijuana facilities are rapidly opening across the nation, and Americans are still in U.S. prisons serving life sentences for marijuana-related charges. According to MSNBC, currently at least 67 people are locked up, sentenced to die behind bars for weed.

While states like Colorado and Washington are raking in millions from selling cannabis, individual citizens are living in cages for dipping into the exact same revenue stream.

Granted, many of these lifers were involved with large, large amounts of cannabis. Still, does any weight of weed counterbalance serving out a life sentence alongside murderers and rapists?

Here are five marijuana lifetime casualties in the War on Drugs

1) Jeff Mizanskey

In 1996, Jeff Mizanskey was sentenced to a life sentence for marijuana. Police said that Mizanskey conspired to sell six pounds of marijuana to a dealer who was connected to the Mexican drug cartels. This was Mizanskey’s third marijuana-related offense. Under the Missouri three-strikes law, Mizanskey received a life with no parole sentence; which made him the only Missouri inmate serving such a sentence for a nonviolent marijuana-related offense.

Fortune recently took a spin in 61-year-old Mizanskey’s favor: Given a commuted sentence, he was released from prison this year after two decades behind bars.

2) Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda

Cuban immigrant Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda fled to the U.S. in 1980 with only a fourth grade education and limited comprehension of the English language. He was granted the status of resident immigrant, but couldn’t secure a job that paid more than $6 per hour.

A drug dealer who had made arrangements to sell 3,100 pounds of marijuana hired Hernandez-Miranda as a day laborer. Hernandez-Miranda’s job was to guard the marijuana in the safe house. Unknown to all involved, the drug deal was part of a DEA sting operation. Poor with little comprehension of spoken English, Hernandez-Miranda was sentenced to life without parole in a federal prison. And that’s where he is today at 75 years old. 

3) Antonio Bascaro

Antonio Bascaro holds the record for the being in prison longer than any other human being in history for marijuana charges. His record: 35 years and counting. In his pre-prison days, Bascaro was a Cuban War hero had battled Fidel Castro during the revolution and also during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Bascaro’s undoing was working as a utility man for a group of Cubans who used fishing boats to transport marijuana between Colombia and Florida. All the other players in this Cuban drug-smuggling ring have been released from prison. The ringmaster and wholesaler were both released in the ‘90s. Bascaro, with no previous criminal record, remains behind bars—scheduled for release on June 8, 2019.

4) Kenny Kubinski

Kenny Kubinski was a Vietnam War veteran who received three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for valor. His country said “thanks” by sentencing him to life in prison without parole for marijuana.

Under Florida conspiracy law, everyone involved was held responsible for the entire weight of the marijuana. 

Kubinski was sentenced for trafficking and distribution of marijuana (and a little cocaine) through a crop dusting company he ran with his brothers. Kubinski was taken from his wife and three kids and put behind bars. Now 67 years old, it’s believed that Kubinski was suffering from PTSD at the time of his crimes.

5) Fred Cundiff

Fred Cundiff, a married father of three, has been behind bars since being arrested in 1991 as part of a reverse sting operation in Tallahassee, Florida. Though Cundiff was far from the kingpin in the deal, under Florida conspiracy law everyone involved was held responsible for the entire weight of the marijuana. Cundiff had two previous marijuana convictions—both minor for growing weed. Because of the priors, he was given a mandatory life without parole sentence and won’t leave prison until he is dead. 

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