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A terminal cancer patient who says he grew marijuana to treat his tumors was found guilty of drug charges Wednesday by an Iowa jury that wasn't allowed to hear his defense.
Benton Mackenzie, 48, was convicted in Iowa district court jury of marijuana manufacturing and conspiracy, along with his wife, Loretta, 43, the Quad-City Times' Brian Wellner first reported. Their son Cody, 22, was found guilty of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.
Benton Mackenzie, who had been barred by Judge Henry Latham from a defense that explains he grew cannabis to relieve his aggressive and rare cancer of the blood vessels, faces a minimum of three years in prison when he is sentenced later. His family said they intend to appeal the verdicts. Mackenzie said prison may kill him as his health worsens.
On Monday, Mackenzie was rushed out of Scott County District Court to a hospital after complaining of extreme pain and hallucinations. He suffers from severe angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer of the blood vessels that produces large skin lesions. His family said he was treated for anemia and other symptoms overnight, Quad City Times reported.
The trial, which began in May, resumed Tuesday. Mackenzie was in court on Tuesday wrapped in a blanket, still wearing his hospital identification bracelet:
But he was unable to tell jurors his reason for growing 71 marijuana plants local authorities seized in 2013 during a raid of his parents' home in Long Grove, Iowa. Mackenzie said he grew the plants to to make canabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, to treat his tumors.
The judge ruled in May that Mackenzie couldn't use his medical condition as a defense. Mackenzie said he was threatened with jail if he talked about his health in court.
Mackenzie on Tuesday filed a motion arguing that a law that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed in May that legalizes the use of CBD oil to treat epilepsy should protect his use of the oil. The new law, however, focuses narrowly on treatment for "intractable epilepsy" and does not apply to Mackenzie, Latham ruled.
"The change in law benefits only a small group of Iowans with the most organized lobbying efforts," Des Moines Register editorial board wrote over the weekend. "Other sick Iowans should have legal access to marijuana extracts, too. These include people with painful and debilitating conditions like cancer, spinal cord injuries and severe arthritis, who may benefit from the drug. But if these people obtain cannabis oil, they will still be considered criminals in this state."
Photos documenting Mackenzie's legal case and his cancerous lesions have been posted to the "Free Benton Mackenzie" Facebook page. Loretta Mackenzie wrote that his condition has worsened in the last several months and included a recent photo from July 4 depicting large, discolored tumors on her husband's skin. WARNING, PHOTOS ARE GRAPHIC.
Mackenzie, along with his wife, son, and his parents, Charles, 76, and Dorothy, 75, were charged with an array of drug crimes after the raid, including hosting a drug house and conspiracy to grow and sell marijuana, the Washington Times reported. The charges against Charles and Dorothy Mackenzie haven't come to court.
Iowa voters overwhelmingly support the legalization of medical marijuana. A recent poll found 81 percent favor legalization.
To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Marijuana in any form remains illegal under federal law.