LONG GROVE, IA — A man with terminal cancer of the blood vessels is being put on trial for growing marijuana plants that he used to ease his suffering. If he survives long enough to be convicted, he could face 3 years in prison, which he believes will be a certain death sentence.
Benton Mackenzie, 48, languishes in pain in his parents basement, diagnosed with a rare disease called angiosarcoma, which leaves him covered in tumors that appear as painful skin lesions.
Angiosarcoma is one of the rarest and most aggressive forms of cancer. It accounts for only 0.1% of all adult cancers, and only 30% of patients survive more than 5 years, according to Angiosarcoma Awareness, Inc.
There is no known cure for angiosarcoma. The best option that modern medical science can offer is to pump the patient with toxic chemicals intravenously and hope that the cancer dies before its host. For pain, patients are offered harsh, addiction-forming pharmaceutical painkillers.
Some patients turn to cannabis to naturally help with pain management and increasing appetite. But the government contends that anyone who possesses the plant without permission is a criminal.
Cracking a ‘Conspiracy’
Benton Mackenzie had been allegedly growing several dozen such plants; enough to provide himself with daily treatments of cannabis oil.
When Detective Joe Caffery from the Scott County Sheriff’s Department sniffed out the marijuana garden in 2013, Mackenzie and his wife, Loretta, were charged with manufacturing marijuana, conspiracy, violation of the drug tax stamp act and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Mackenzie’s 73-year-old parents, Dorothy and Charles Mackenzie, were charged with hosting a drug house. Even his son, Cody, was given a charge of possession of marijuana when less than a gram was found under his bed.
Police also netted Mackenzie’s childhood friend, Stephen Bloomer, as part of the “conspiracy” to grow the plants. Mr. Bloomer had allegedly bought materials and helped to set up the garden, and ultimately plead guilty to a charge of manufacturing marijuana. He now faces up to 5 years in prison.
‘No Fair Trial’
Mr. Mackenzie is now on trial himself. As if the situation were not unjust enough, the defense team is being gagged from discussing the illness or the reason he was growing the marijuana in front of the jury. As the Quad-City Times reported:
Now, just days ahead of going to trial Monday on drug conspiracy charges, a Scott County District judge has ruled he won’t allow Mackenzie to use his ailment as a defense.
“I’m not allowed to mention anything,” Mackenzie said Thursday, the day Judge Henry Latham’s ruling was filed. “I’m not allowed to give proof why I was using. Now, there is no fair trial.”
Mackenzie wants to be able to tell jurors why he grew marijuana. He wants to show them pictures of his cancerous lesions.
“If I’m to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and the court doesn’t let me tell the truth, they’re making me a liar,” he said.
Since his arrest and the confiscation of his plants, his health has deteriorated; as Mackenzie describes, “touch and go.” He suffers frequent episodes of vomiting, cold sweats and extreme pain. He says he almost always feels tired.
On July 7th, Mr. Mackenzie was abruptly rushed from the courtroom on a stretcher because of an episode of extreme pain and hallucinations.
As journalist Brian Wellner documented, “[The] jury never entered courtroom today. Judge Latham said he didn’t want jurors seeing Benton Mackenzie laying down on a courtroom bench.”
Wellner’s latest update on Mr. Mackenzie read, “He’s anemic, potassium and hemoglobin levels are down, needs transfusion.”
The trial is ongoing and could result in Benton Mackenzie being sent to prison — if he survives that long. The wrongheadedness of the prosecution has not escaped many who have heard this story.
“Instead of putting this guy in jail, somebody should be studying him,” said Dr. Charles Goldman, a cancer surgeon at Mercy Hospital, Des Moines. “I think Iowa is going against the current of history.”
Mr. Mackenzie says his future is bleak.
“No matter what, if I’m found guilty, I’ll do at least three years in prison, which is a death sentence for me,” Mackenzie told the Quad-City Times, weeks ago. “If I’m found guilty at all, I’m a dead man. I’m lucky I’m not dead already.”
Benton Mackenzie’s case displays the tragic cruelty of the Drug War and how illogical prohibition laws frequently destroy the lives of harmless people. There have been many people like Mr. Mackenzie that have been arrested, tried, and convicted just for trying to relieve their own suffering — harming no one. Some have died in the process. Can concerned citizens generate enough outrage to help the Mackenzie family avoid the same fate?
2 thoughts on “Terminally-ill man charged with felonies for treating himself with marijuana”
First of all, the fact of him even being arrested for this is ridiculous, but it’s proof that cops ignore all real crime in favor of robbing people.
“If I’m found guilty at all, I’m a dead man. I’m lucky I’m not dead already.”
He’s not only a dead man, but he’s a stupid man too. If you had terminal cancer, would you be spending your last days battling this nonsense in court, or would you be more likely to grow and smoke your marijuana, and shoot any dumb cop that tries to stop you?
I guess if he watches TV all day, the idiot probably thinks the cops are there to protect him from something.