The Ottumwa Courier

September 30, 2013

Iowa man may attempt medical marijuana defense


Ottumwa Courier

---- — DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — The criminal case against an eastern Iowa man for growing marijuana highlights the arguments for the medical use of marijuana.

Scott County prosecutors say 47-year-old Benton Mackenzie is a drug dealer who had 71 marijuana plants in his house.

But the Quad-City Times reports (http://bit.ly/16M6nXz ) Mackenzie suffers from terminal cancer and says he relies on marijuana to treat his illness.

A court is scheduled to decide next month whether Mackenzie broke Iowa law by growing marijuana in his parents' house.

Mackenzie, who is representing himself, likely will try to argue that he needs the drug for treatment. But Iowa isn't among the 20 states that have legalized medical use of marijuana.

Prosecutors also charged Mackenzie's wife, retired parents, son and a friend with helping him grow the marijuana.

"I feel like nobody really gives a damn, except my family," Mackenzie said. "And now they're in trouble for not kicking me to the street to die."

Mackenzie spent 42 days in jail before prosecutors asked a judge to release him without bail, so Scott County wouldn't be forced to pay for his cancer treatments.

Mackenzie acknowledges having used pot and hallucinogenic mushrooms recreationally in the past, and he was convicted for growing mushrooms in 2000 and for growing marijuana in 2010.

But Mackenzie said the reason he's using marijuana now is to treat his pain and cancer.

Mackenzie's parents say their only crime was allowing their son and his wife to live in their home after their 2010 drug convictions.

"My husband and I have been accused of running a drug house, because we allowed him to live here and treat his cancer," Dottie Mackenzie said.

Scott County Sheriff's Lt. Bryce Schmidt said he considered the Mackenzie house a medium-size pot-growing operation.

Des Moines cancer surgeon Dr. Charles Goldman said Mackenzie should be studied, not punished for developing his marijuana ointment.

Mackenzie said he would have liked to move to a state that allows medical marijuana but that wasn't an option because he remained on probation in Iowa.

California Dr. Jeffrey Hergenrather said he believes cannabis oil has helped battle cancer in several of his patients.

"It's very easy to recognize cannabis has a profound role in killing tumors," said Hergenrather, a 1975 graduate of the Brown University School of Medicine, now the Warren Alpert Medical School, in Providence, R.I.

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Information from: Quad-City Times, http://www.qctimes.com