State Rep. Stanley Cox says he wants to improve Missouri's criminal code, as long as those improvements don't include more lenient marijuana laws.
And if there's anybody who knows how harsh Missouri's drug laws are, it's Cox -- he was one of the attorneys involved in the case of Jeff Mizanskey, Missouri's only inmate serving life without parole for marijuana charges.
The Republican from Sedalia is upset that within a 1,000-page bill is a little piece of legislation that would reduce the penalty for possessing less than 35 grams of marijuana for nonviolent, first-time offenders. Under the proposed legislation, the maximum penalty one would receive is a $500 fine. Under current law, offenders face one year in prison.
Cox tells Daily RFT that he doesn't want the marijuana laws to change. But if lawmakers want to debate changing them, they should vote solely on the marijuana laws themselves, not make changes by including them in a massive bill.
"I think punishment should be the same as it is today until the General Assembly votes up and down to change it," Cox says. "I think it's a cowardly thing to do to include in a 1,000-page bill on a controversial issue that you're not willing to vote on up and down specifically. And my argument is there should be an up and down vote on reducing the crime of possession of drugs."
Cox just wants transparency, he adds: "When [voters] elect people and send them to Jefferson City, we should know what our representatives are doing for us."
Cox's views on marijuana laws are noteworthy. Not only is he the head of the House Judiciary Committee, but the attorney-turned-lawmaker has worked marijuana cases as the Pettis County prosecutor between 1979 and 1982 and as a defense attorney in private practice. Most notably, in 1993 he represented Atilano Quintana, the co-defendent in the Jeff Mizanskey case, which has been extensively covered in the Riverfront Times.
Many people around Missouri, as well as the country, have expressed outrage over Mizanskey -- the only inmate in Missouri serving a life without parole sentence for solely marijuana charges. We asked Cox if he thinks Mizanskey's sentence was fair and is a good policy to have in the Show-Me state.
Click on the next page to read what Cox says about the Mizanskey case...
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