Since his arrest last summer, Benton Mackenzie has maintained he grew marijuana to treat terminal cancer.

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."

The 48-year-old, who shared his story with the Quad-City Times last September, was diagnosed with angiosarcoma in 2011. It's a cancer of the blood vessels, in which tumors appear as skin lesions.

He says the lesions have grown enormous since sheriff's deputies confiscated 71 marijuana plants from his parents' Long Grove home last summer. He needed all those plants just to be able to extract enough cannabis oil for daily treatments, he says.

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.

Assistant Scott County Attorney Patrick McElyea, who is prosecuting Mackenzie, filed a motion earlier this month to limit any testimony regarding medical marijuana. He has declined to comment on the case.

McElyea based his motion on the 2005 Iowa Supreme Court decision in State v. Bonjour, a case similar to Mackenzie's. Lloyd Bonjour, an AIDS patient, was convicted of growing marijuana, and the Supreme Court upheld the conviction.

Latham sided with McElyea's motion, stating, "The court is not aware of any legislation or been provided with any legislation which provides for such defense."

The judge states he is aware Mackenzie has angiosarcoma. He also is aware Iowa lawmakers recently legalized oil concentrated with cannabidiol, or CBD, with "specific restrictions."

The pending law, expected to be signed today by Gov. Terry Branstad, only applies to those suffering severe epileptic seizures.

Mackenzie says he thinks state government is the "bigger criminal," because it's practicing medicine without a license in deciding who can and who cannot possess medical marijuana.

"At least the state is now recognizing, with a law, that marijuana has medicinal value," he said, adding his plants were from a strain rich in CBD, which in other states is associated more with medical use than recreational use.

Without the medical necessity defense, Mackenzie said his fate is "completely in the Lord's hands."

Sitting through several hours of hearings over the past 11 months has been hard enough on someone with lesions covering his legs and rear, he says. He can't imagine sitting through an entire trial, which is scheduled to begin Monday with jury selection.

He says he may show up to court wearing a kilt, so jurors can see for themselves. But he wouldn't want his lesions oozing and bleeding all over the courtroom furniture.

"That shows how much of a criminal I'm not," he said.

At one point during a phone conversation with a reporter Thursday afternoon, he reacted because one of his larger lesions opened up and bled onto the chair and floor at home, he said.

"I'm sitting in a pile of blood," he said a moment later.

He wants to request a nurse or a medical provider be allowed to sit in the courtroom with him. He says the judge is allowing breaks, but he expects he'll have to take a break every few minutes just to replace the large, disposable underpad for furniture.

He anticipates that with his failing health and the number of co-defendants, the trial will come across as a "circus."

Mackenzie is charged with felony drug possession along with his wife, Loretta Mackenzie. His 73-year-old parents, Dorothy and Charles Mackenzie, are charged with hosting a drug house, and his son, Cody, is charged with misdemeanor possession. His childhood friend, Stephen Bloomer, also is charged in the drug conspiracy.

All six defendants are being represented by a different attorney.

Lately, Mackenzie's health has been "touch and go," he says, with episodes of vomiting, cold sweats and extreme pain. He almost always feels tired.

He raised enough money from family and friends to travel twice this spring to Oregon, which has legalized medical marijuana.

Each trip was a week long. During the first trip, he met with a physician, who approved him for a state medical marijuana identification card. On the second trip, he was able to purchase oil in an amount equivalent to a pound and a half of marijuana, which he couldn't by law bring back to Iowa.

The little bit of relief is nothing compared to the daily treatments prior to his arrest, when he was shrinking his skin lesions, he said. He claims the oil in Oregon also stopped the growth of the lesions, but only temporarily.

Mackenzie said he hopes jurors will show compassion in deciding his future.

"No matter what, if I'm found guilty, I'll do at least three years in prison, which is a death sentence for me," he said. "If I'm found guilty at all, I'm a dead man. I'm lucky I'm not dead already."

(49) comments


If I saved your life I would be called a "Hero".

Marijuana is saving untold lives everyday. Some are
little children that are given a chance to live a
life pharmaceutical Companies could never offer.
What does it take to open peoples eye's to the lie's


time for jury nullification. FIJA


There are more important things than winning a case! Thoughts and prayers with you Mr. Mackenzie. I wish they would have left you alone!!


this case disgusts me that this incompetent Scott County Judicial System would even consider wasting my hard earned tax money to pursue this case.I hope that these morons do not have loved ones that could benefit from these medicinal practices. God put this plant here for a reason. Power of the vote. Make it work


JURY NULLIFICATION!!! if anyone is reading this article and gets called for jury duty, don't express your opinion on mmj. but, if chosen for this jury, exercise your constitutional right to demonstrate your opinion of an unjust law. it only takes one person on the jury to exercise the right of nullification. at the end of the prohibition, prosecutors quit presenting cases because jurors were practicing jury nullification. it can work again.

Van Winkle RN
Van Winkle RN

I am a Nurse and I would like to volunteer to help in any way I can. I think it is of utmost importance that prison medical records from admission to discharge are requested to be evidence in court, as they show care needed or lack thereof, for this case. The jury will be able to see what kind of care was given to meet medical needs, especially treatment of pain and a physical assessment and treatment plan by a physician. I think since Scott county released this man, rather than keep him in prison and have to pay for his medical treatments shows that he is NOT a danger to anyone. Any documentation from the trips to Oregon physicians and medicinal marijuana approval should also be admissible in court. I don't know enough about the laws and court procedures to be helpful in any way in that capacity, however, I can clearly see there were gaps in treatment that increased this man's condition and pain and suffering while he was in prison. To send him back to suffer is a cruel and unusual punishment that I believe will increase the speed of his cancer.


Medicinal marijuana has many more uses besides treating epilepsy. Help for one, but not the rest? Legalize it already!

womp womp

The only reason they did anything on epilepsy is because they had a Des Moines politician with a family member with the illness ask for help. Maybe when this guy's cancer shows up in a politician's family he'll get the help he needs. Not really though, he posessed plants, which even the epilepsy folks aren't allowed to do. Those folks have to buy their treatment oil 2 or more states away, smuggle it through states where it's illegal to get to iowa and then they're home free. So, even for the folks with epilepsy, it's a non-solution to the problem and a waste of everyone's time to even put the law on the books


Exodus 9 :11-35
11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses. 13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me,


Thankfully, I live in Colorado where MMJ is plentiful and affordable.
Thankfully, I have the best kind of cancer: colon.


Why we waist tax dollars and prison space on weed is beyond me.

Comment deleted.

Technically, Judge Latham isn't an Article III judge or an administrative law judge. He's an Article V judge, I suppose, since we're taking state and not federal court. Specifically, he's a district court judge, as organized under the Iowa Constitution. Maybe you should know what you're talking about before you start spewing nonsense.

If you don't like this particular law, that's fine. (I'm right there with ya.) But a violation of the judge's and prosecutor's oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the State of Iowa would be to ignore by fiat the duly passed laws of the land.

Comment deleted.
Cheryl Lawrence

Wow, you hit the nail on the head with that one. Maybe, just maybe if out politicians had a 2 term limit they would have to be more honest in their voting. I feel many times they vote a certain way because they want to get re-elected and could care less at what is right or wrong.

There has got to be something that can be done to rectify this case and quickly!

common sense is ded

When I was 12 my dad was diagnosed with Lemphoma, when I was 15 he died, he was 48. I watched my father suffer for 3 years. It screwed me up permanently. Any person who would deny a cancer patient medication is the devil. I find it interesting that governor Branstad is perfectly fine with his son killing a person drunk driving and getting off Scott free, but when this man grows his own medicine, let's lock him up. Despicable.


I could not agree more! It's time for people in this country to stand up and say we won't let folks that live under a rock and somehow equate marijuana to drugs like heroine make our rules anymore. If a grown human can have a beer, take a Vicodin, smoke a cigarette, eat a cheeseburger, and ride a motorcycle without a helmet, surely they can be trusted to smoke a little grass if they feel so inclined, right?

Is there anyone out there that really believes the 80+ year old garbage that marijuana is somehow a "gateway drug"? Maybe gateway because people have to get it from drug dealers that surprise surprise SELL OTHER DRUGS! I still think even that's a stretch. I have seen far more lowering of inhibitions with the drunks, but hey, who's keeping track right? I see folks make comments about the link to schizophrenia even though a simple Google search will point you to peer reviewed scholarly articles written by professors at Harvard, Yale, etc. that absolutely debunk the link between marijuana and schizophrenia. Again though, don't pay attention to that sort of stuff. Continue to ruin peoples lives, families and futures to appease a bunch of 70 years old curmudgeons and an overzealous law enforcement community that mostly see it as a way to get in the cars of thugs to search for guns and real drugs. At least they have gone as far as to add the tax stamp violations the last 20 years or so, because hey, why not trump it up somewhere with a charge that nobody could ever not get.

We have to wake up folks, no matter which side of the argument you're on with marijuana, if you don't see what an abuse of what should be a personal freedom this is, I fear for you and your future in the world this is turning into.


To the entire family: This is an obvious corrupt county. I feel so badly for your situation. This is what happens when "the average Joe" tries to fight the government. The "officials" try to squash those people out like bugs. I am so proud that you all are not intimidated by the bullying behavior of the Sheriff's Dept, the County Attorney's office, or the judges. Keep fighting the good fight.

You are not alone!!!! My daughter and I will be at the trial, seated proudly behind you all with full support.



He should have been left alone in the first place. A person behaving with decency and empathy would NOT put him or his family through this. Have those involved truly considered how they would feel if this was happening to their loved one? I am so sorry that they have to go through this on top of everything else!


If you've ever spoken at length with a prosecutor, you'd know that most of them are quite seedy and frankly don't care enough to even wonder what they might be doing to people.


I find it amazing how many people base such a strong opinion off of one small piece of a story. If any of you did some research you would know that if he is in fact facing a minimum three year sentence it is because he is a repeat offender. According to he has been charged a couple of times, along with his childhood friend and wife. I'm not saying it isn't a sad situation but the facts are facts and laws are laws. We can not make exceptions, especially now that there are states that would better accommodate his needs. I would think living out of a tent to get the "medicine" I need is better than prison/jail/fines/etc. for not only myself but my family and friends. I would have even more sympathy for his story and his "defense" if there wasn't a felony drug possession on his record from 1999, which is well before he was battling these health issues. Also, I can't imagine basing such harsh feelings towards an attorney or I judge I've never met, all I know is it can't be easy having to be the one who has to uphold the law regardless of special circumstances. These laws and minimum sentences come from much higher up and they have no control over that. I have sympathy for all parties involved. This will not be any easy case.


You make some good points, but I think his fight here is bigger than just him and just this case. Maybe it's hard for you to see that because you're not in the same type of situation but I think he is trying to open a debate so others don't have to suffer like him and his family. Yeah, he was probably a smoker back in the day, I get your point on the earlier charges too, but that is most likely why he was comfortable trying it as a remedy to his cancer in the first place so I'm not sure it should be implied that he is just a criminal so therefore he shouldn't be afforded any compassion. Simple solution, we all pitch in and the judge just lets him move to Colorado... no harm, no foul. Why do that though when instead, we can incarcerate him and pay for treatment options that are expensive, and that he doesn't want, that makes much more sense. Sheesh.


My husband has angiosarcoma. No skin lesions. He's had one tumore sugically removed from a adrenal gland and one radiated on the main blood vessel to the liver. He has a couple tumors they watch but is now on a 6 month check up instead of every 3. Its been 2 1/2 yrs since any treatment was needed. This is his second cancer in 10 yrs. He's also diabetic type 1. So not all angiosarcoma cases are the same. This guy needs to go hide out in the hills of Amsterdam.


Everyone should read the bonjuor case, especially the dissent. There are holes in the motion made by the CA. One, if so motivated, could reach out to the dissenting judge for advice. I also saw your lawyer lost her law license. You should find a better lawyer if your life truly hangs in the balance. I would also motion for my own trial.

My comment from earlier made it's own point. You will either have sympathetic jurors or jurors who ask the questions of why. You only have to convince one for a hung jury.

Cheryl Lawrence

I agree with you on the sympathetic jurors, but they are instructed to only consider the facts . . . not any human anguish.

tin man

Dear commonsense133, Best of luck to you & your husband! Don't pay any attention to people like "medelmen" . People like that have no idea how hard it is to be sick & in pain everyday, & because of that , a lot of people have no compassion. They run their mouth off thinking that they are intelligent, when in fact they sound really ignorant. I think that the ADA sounds like he knows he can't win the case presenting all the facts, & he only wants "wins" on his record. God will judge him and everyone involved in making your husband suffer! God Bless you & your husband. We will keep you in our prayers. PS, I have been sick & in pain for over 10 years. I, too, had people make Stupid remarks. After awhile you just accept that some people are just unhappy, non- compassionate human beings!

billy hoyle

If I understand correctly from some posters, it is super easy to just up and move, cancer or not. I did not know that. Thanks from a soon to be Hawaiian.

Note to Scott Co DA's office - leave him alone. its called enforcement discretion. it is used all the time....


If ever there was a case for jury nullification, this is it. Hopefully enough of the selected jurors have been paying attention to this story over the last several months..


Dude what the heck do you care about a contempt of court charge? Really! The judge can go you no where, in fact I would be smoking one all the way up to the courthouse. Play sick during the trial, that's what you do. Last of all I don't care what a judge said a defendant has a right to present any defense. Don't forget jury member walk right in the same door, hold a picket sign up in the driveway so the jury will see your defense. Plus you are covered Scott County is real small so people are aware of your case. Shame on the DA and Rookie Judge Henry Latham's. If I was gonna die and I knew it for sure, a Judge, cop or no body else couldn't tell me anything. Really! I mean a life prison sentence is not a fear factor if you know you are going to die.last point why not move to CO.

Cheryl Lawrence

These comments are so on point! He is taking this for relief of his pain and perhaps even help with his cancer. How can ANYONE be so inhumane to want to prosecute this man? Bradstad is signing a law for use for epilepsy but for God's sake this man needs help now.

I wonder how someone in the prosecutors office would feel if they came down with the same disease? I think some compassion is needed in this case.


I totally agree with you Cheryl! How can we as humans deny this man medication that was helping him? I wish that the county could be sued for causing his illness to worsen by not allowing him his medication, but I know that can't happen because the law says the medication is illegal.


I don't necessarily buy all the arguments that the defense in this case are laying out there. Now, that being said, I DO know how I feel about the situation. NO ONE should be told by ANY government that they are not allowed to do something to treat their medical condition as long as it is not harmful to anyone else. I hope he wins his case. Leave him ALONE!


This judge and all the authorities involved should be tried for murder if this man dies.


The evil cops and courts that force some citizens to take medication and deny other citizens the right to take marijuana medication. Its time to take the power back and fight. Good old Iowa where you can kill your baby and destroy the conception but if you take marijuana they will lock you up in prison with murderers, rapist, thugs, gangsters and pedophiles. Benton is in a war of good versus evil.........




How ironic that Gov. Branstad is going to sign a law today for the legalization of CBD oil in Iowa for the treatment of epilepsy! I know this isn't what this gentleman is using it for, but I'm sure it helps his cancer.. Until the Federal Gov. removes marijauna from being a Schedule 1 drug ( equilalent to cocaine, pcp, etc.), marijauna cannot be tested by the FDA for all it cures. They say it has no medicinal properties...yet they have their own patent on it for the exact thing. Good thing is laws going into effect today are small steps in the right direction.
To not allow this person to explain this in court is absolutely ridiculous! He is going to be just another pot head dealer and grower in the jury's eyes. Best of luck to him..he is going to need it.


So he needs a break every few minutes during trial because of his lesions but can magically travel to Oregon?


Hey mendelmen: My husband's tumors are deadly. If you don't know anything about angiosarcoma cancer, it has a life expectancy of 2 to 3 years, and that's with chemo. Only 20% of patients outlive that and Benton is the ONLY ONE who has used high CBD cannabis oil and survived six years. He's in pain constantly since being deprived of his natural treatment (for several months, I might add) and if you think the two long flights to Oregon were a piece of cake, you're sadly mistaken. They were long, painful trips but they were necessary because Oregon is the only state that takes non-residents into their medical cannabis program and they are a very compassionate state, unlike Iowa and Iowans like you. Think before you speak for goodness sake. I could be widowed anytime soon and heartless people like you don't care until something like this happens to someone YOU love. By the way, since you didn't read the article thoroughly, his lesions are bleeding out regularly now, which is dangerous considering he's on blood thinning medication for his artificial heart valve. You get that? He could bleed to death. One last thing in case you want to debate chemo vs. no chemo: Chemo is poison. Ben has experience as a naturopathic physician's assistant and he knows a lot more than you do about safe, effective treatments.

Marvin Juzek
Marvin Juzek

High thc cannabis oil is the most effective way to kill the cancer cells!

Marvin Juzek
Marvin Juzek

Cannabis oil cures cancer! Check out some success stories on this site


Give me a break. There is no serious research that says such a thing. Yeah, chemo is poison. Cannabis changes your brain chemistry and is linked to schizophrenia. Personally I don't care if he wants to use cannabis oil, I also think a person with cancer should have access to all the experimental drugs regardless of the what the FDA says. BTW, Obamacare took cancer drugs off the market for everyone because of cost, which is grotesque. I don't understand why he doesn't move to one of those wonderful states that he prefers over Iowa.


I am so sorry this is happening. I can not stop thinking about what you are going through. It is unbelievable to me that someone would prosecute you, I would not think it possible to find anyone to do so!!!!


Thank you bballfanedc76. Only in Scott County, where the County Prosecutor won't prosecute a cop caught on film repeatedly punching a woman in the face, but will prosecute a dying man for using the most safe, non-toxic cancer killing herb created by the hand of God.

Cheryl Lawrence



Hey Assistant Scott County Attorney Patrick McElyea, f you! You are a terrible individual and should be ashamed of yourself. You're the one that should be prosecuted for withholding evidence.


Marco: Withholding evidence is something we are in the process of charging him with, as well as racketeering, along with Scott County deputies. They think no one is paying attention, lol. God and the people of Iowa are paying attention. Thank you for your support!


Good luck Mr. Mackenzie, my heart breaks for you. I pray that someday our justice system will learn to use a little common sense and compassion when deciding cases like yours. I am so sorry that they are blind to what they are doing to you.


Thank you 1of3. My husband is determined to tell his side of the story in court, in front of a jury of his peers. The county is blinded by their own greed and arrogance. God has promised vindication and to repay them in His time. We have confidence He will. In the meantime, the people of Iowa need to study the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and start standing up for their rights. The courts may deny them but they do so at the risk of exposing themselves as traitors and tyrants.

"No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it."
-- Sixteenth American Jurisprudence, Second Edition, Section 177. (late 2nd Ed. Section 256)

Vicky Danielson

To comonsense1333. Good luck to your husband regarding his fight. not guilty!!!

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