The Iowa Court of Appeals has rejected the appeals of the wife and son of Benton Mackenzie, a now-deceased Iowa cancer patient convicted of growing marijuana.
Loretta Mackenzie, 45, and Benton Mackenzie, 48, were convicted in July 2014 of felony manufacturing marijuana, conspiracy, violation of the drug tax stamp act and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Their son, Cody, 25, was convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.
The family lived with Benton Mackenzie's parents, Charles and Dorothy, at 27120 183rd Ave., Long Grove, on June 21, 2013.
On that day, Scott County Sheriff's deputies raided the property and discovered an RV and trailer parked next to the side of the house, according to trial testimony.
Inside, deputies discovered 60 to 70 marijuana plants, as well as electrical, ventilation and water equipment, according to trial testimony.
They also found marijuana in a safe under Cody Mackenzie’s bed, and smoking pipes and other paraphernalia were found in his bedroom and in the house, according to testimony.
The RV was registered to the mother of Stephen Bloomer, a longtime friend of Benton Mackenzie.
Benton Mackenzie admitted to deputies that the RV belonged to Bloomer but denied that Bloomer nor his wife and son were involved with growing marijuana.
Benton Mackenzie was diagnosed with angiosarcoma in 2011. He says he grew marijuana in order to treat his cancer with oil derived from the plant.
He was unable to tell jurors that. District Court Judge Henry Latham ruled that Iowa law does not allow medicinal necessity as a legal defense.
Benton Mackenzie died in January 2015.
Bloomer, 51, pleaded guilty to manufacturing marijuana and admitted to buying equipment and providing use of his recreation vehicle for the growing operation and was sentenced to up to five years in prison.
He posted a $5,000 appeal bond shortly after sentencing. The appeals court this week also denied the appeal of his sentence.
Loretta Mackenzie was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the sentence was suspended. She also received three years probation. Cody Mackenzie was sentenced to probation.
Loretta Mackenzie argued in her appeal that the court erred when it denied her motion to suppress the results of a search warrant, which she argued was premised upon the findings of an “illegal trash search.”
According to the appeals court opinion, a detective discovered marijuana stalks when he examined trash outside the MacKenzie residence and applied for a search warrant of the property.
The appeals court rejected the argument, as well as her argument that there was insufficient evidence to convict her and, if there is sufficient evidence that she aided her husband in manufacturing marijuana, she did so out of medical necessity.
The appeal court also rejected her argument that the district court abused its discretion in revoking her probation in a 2011 marijuana manufacturing case by “failing to properly take into account the mitigating factors in this case.”
The court, which said it sympathized with the family’s struggle with “debilitating disease,” said the district judge did consider all circumstances and, in light of her care-taking role for her husband, suspended her sentence.
“Also considering the fact her violations arise from the same conduct upon which she was originally placed upon probation, the disposition imposed was just,” the court wrote.