Standing amid a crowd of demonstrators outside Benton Mackenzie's sentencing Tuesday in Scott County District Court, Jeanne Olsen of Bettendorf called his prosecution "inhumane."
"I've worked with cancer patients," the 27-year chaplain at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, said. "I know how important it is to be able to get pain control."
Olsen says she supports the legalization of medical marijuana in Iowa.
Moments before the hearing began, Mackenzie, his wife Loretta and son Cody greeted a crowd of about 15 demonstrators.
"Whatever happens today, it's going to have something to do with legalizing marijuana," Loretta Mackenzie said.
Sarah Rowe of Davenport, who joined supporters at Davenport's Lafayette Park before moving to the courthouse, said she hopes the case will impact the public's perception of patients who seek marijuana treatment over traditional means.
"A lot of people in Iowa who think support for medical marijuana is a minority, it's not," Rowe said.
The Huffington Post reported last week a nationwide poll that found 58 percent of respondents support marijuana legalization, whereas 35 percent oppose it.
Wayne Cohn came from Des Moines to join the rally, telling other protesters he knows people who use cannabis as medicine. "And it works," he said.
Dr. Lee Hieb, a Libertarian Party candidate for Iowa governor, attended the sentencing and said afterward that she supports marijuana legalization.
"It's costing taxpayers a lot of money to prosecute a victimless crime," Hieb said.
In the weeks leading up to the sentencing, Mackenzie supporters posted on various Facebook groups urging people to call Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's office and ask him to pardon Mackenzie if he was sent to prison.
The governor's spokesman Jimmy Centers confirmed his office received "correspondence" on the case but that Branstad would not weigh on it.
"The decision (to prosecute Mackenzie) was made at the local level by the Scott County Attorney," Centers said. "The governor, as chief executive, has no authority over the judicial branch."
Stephen Bloomer also came to Tuesday's sentencing to support the Mackenzies. The 49-year-old Davenport man was a co-defendant in the case who pleaded guilty to one count of manufacturing marijuana just before the trial. He wasn't called to testify at the trial.
"He won't get this much publicity," his mother, Carla Harksen of Davenport, said in the hallway of the courthouse. "They're going to burn him."
Bloomer is to be sentenced Sept. 18.