It’s not enough for the state of Iowa to persecute a dying cancer patient for his medical marijuana grow. Prosecutors want to bankrupt his wife, jail his kid, imprison his friend and put his elderly parents on the streets while the state seizes their house, too.
The tragic tale of Benton Mackenzie, 47, takes place in Long Grove, Iowa, as reported by the Quad-City Times. He suffers from a form of cancer known as angiosarcoma that attacks the blood vessels. The illness manifests itself as painful cancerous lesions all along his backside.
Benton hadn’t always been sick. He was a competitive bagpiper and rugged outdoorsman. He smoked pot since the age of 16 just for kicks, but pain from surgery to correct a congenital heart defect awakened him to the medical use of cannabis, turning him into medical marijuana advocate.
Then he got in trouble with the law. First it was a bust in 2000 for cultivating psychedelic mushrooms. In 2010, he got caught growing his medical marijuana. That led to charges against Benton and his wife, Loretta, to which they pleaded guilty to avoid prison time. The felony convictions led to the couple and their then 18-year-old son, Cody, being evicted from their apartment.
With nowhere else to turn, the Mackenzie Family moved in with Benton’s 72-year-old parents, Chuck and Dottie. Benton, now sick with cancer, continued growing his medicinal plants, which he was now processing into Rick Simpson’s Oil after he discovered the Run from the Cure documentary.
This year, Scott County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Furlong believed Long Grove was in the grip of a vast marijuana growing conspiracy. Cops pulled over Stephen Bloomer, a friend of Benton’s who was helping him with the marijuana grow. Stephen, a convicted felon, was driving on a suspended license in a car registered to Benton. That was enough reason for Deputy Dan to raid Chuck and Dottie’s garbage cans (no warrant required -- it is legal for cops to raid your garbage) and find marijuana stalks, which gave cops the probable cause to raid the home.
In the raid, cops threw Benton and his wife to the ground and generally tore up the home. They found 71 plants, grow equipment, paraphernalia and a scale. Prosecutors charged Benton, Loretta and Stephen with felony conspiracy to cultivate and sell marijuana. They charged Chuck and Dottie with hosting a drug house, which will likely lead to a civil asset forfeiture of the home to the state. They even charged now 21-year-old Cody for misdemeanor possession.
Benton continued his treatment regimen. He says his need works out to about three plants per week worth of raw material to make the highly concentrated cannabis oil. He found that using it topically on the affected skin and taking an oil capsule orally helped control his pain and moderate the appearance of the lesions. Police found out when they stopped by to deliver paperwork and when they saw a gram of marijuana left on their coffee table, they put Benton and Loretta back in jail.
Benton spent 42 days in jail and his condition worsened with every day. Where cannabis oil had kept the lesions in check, without it he was experiencing new, far worse breakouts, some three inches in size. The pain was so unbearable he could not lie down, prompting the attending jail nurse to ignorantly recommend he “lay down at assigned times.”
When the prosecutor recognized Benton’s cancer was likely going to cost the state a fortune in medical bills, Benton was released from jail without bond. Loretta wasn’t as unlucky and was stuck in jail for two months, unable to raise the $5,000 bond until she got a junk mail offer for a credit card she could max out immediately to get free.
Loretta was freed three days after Benton learned that his cancer had spread to his lungs and liver. He can’t leave Iowa for California, Colorado or any of the 18 other states where he’d certainly qualify for medical marijuana protection, because that would violate his probation and put him back in jail. Benton Mackenzie now hopes to raise a medical necessity affirmative defense that would protect him and other desperate Iowa patients. That is, if he lives long enough and an Iowa jury has any sense of dignity, compassion and justice.