Canna convict Wiggington released from prison
In 2016, Buchanan County Judge Daniel Kellogg sentenced Seth Wiggington to 23 years in prison for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Wiggington was found to be in possession of 18 pounds of cannabis and five pounds of hash oil, effectively making him a felon.
The Missouri-based non-profit, Canna Convict Project, has rallied for Wiggington’s release from prison and successfully achieved its goal. Wiggington was released from Western Missouri Correctional Center and reunited with friends and family Friday afternoon with the help of the non-profit, including organization leader Christina Frommer (featured photo, left, photo courtesy of the Canna Convict Project Facebook page). (Story continued after the embedded video of Wiggington’s release.)
The mission behind the Canna Convict Project is to help Missouri citizens who are incarcerated for a cannabis-related crime to be released from prison and cleared of their charges. Part of the organization’s next plans for assisting with release is teaming up with law students to review the cases and determine their next steps. Canna Convict Project uses Missourian Jeff Mizankey’s clemency as a template for their petitions to the governor. Mizanskey was released from prison in 2015. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1996 for three cannabis felonies. Mizanskey was charged so severely because of Missouri’s “three strikes law,” a law that increases some misdemeanor charges to felonies if the person has repeat convictions of the same crime.
“This was only possible due to the support of the community!” Frommer said. “Sharing stories, expertise, resources, time, energy, financial donations. None of this would have been possible without it. Teamwork is how this happened. Jeff was the inspiration for all of this! We were all criminals first. I find it ironic that our cannabis supply chain is now considered ‘essential,’ while men and women still sit, forgotten, behind bars. They are our original medicine providers.”
The non-profit organization also helps to craft a plan to restabilize and integrate the offender back into society upon their release. This is included but not limited to housing assistance, mental health services, and job placement and training. The group feels “the journey does not end upon release.”
Amendment 2 does not provide relief for those incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses before the law was passed. Those behind the Canna Convict Project find that inexcusable, and that is the whole reason they joined the fight. The release of Seth Wiggington was a major win for this group and will hopefully garner them more attention and an opportunity to access more resources.
Forbes reported last October that the FBI data showed 663,367 arrests for cannabis crimes in 2018 – that is one every 48 seconds and an increase from 2017’s 659,700 arrests and 2016’s total of 653,249 arrests. Almost 92 percent of 2018’s cannabis arrests were for possession alone, and the Forbes report says cannabis accounted for more arrests than those for “aggravated assault, burglary, arson, fraud, disorderly conduct or sex offenses, among other crime categories.”
The release of Seth Wiggington comes after Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’s announcement last month to begin pardoning some cannabis offenses that were handled in the city’s municipal court. Not every offender will qualify and state and federal cases cannot be pardoned under Lucas’s authority.
Illinois also issued 11,000 pardons for cannabis crimes on New Year’s Eve last year.
As more groups like Canna Convict Project demand and raise awareness of this issue, more and more people will likely be released for non-violent cannabis crimes. Their timing couldn’t be better, as Missouri restructures their prison system, preparing to release and relocate many current inmates.
Those interested in learning about this issue are encouraged to follow the Canna Convict Project’s Facebook page to get updates on their latest work.