Prosecutors in Iowa have dropped charges against an elderly couple accused of helping their son grow medical weed.
Chuck and Dottie Mackenzie, 75 and 76 respectively, were charged with hosting a drug house for letting their son, Benton Mackenzie, grow marijuana in their home. Benton Mackenzie suffers from terminal cancer of the blood vessels, and used cannabis to treat it.
On July 16, Scott County District Judge Thomas Rediel ordered the charges dismissed on a request by the county attorney’s office.
“The defendant has no prior criminal history and evidence shows that although they had knowledge of the growing of marijuana on their property they did not actively participate in the growing or use of marijuana,” prosecutors wrote to the judge.
Son Convicted on Drug Charges
Benton Mackenzie was convicted earlier in July of felony marijuana manufacture, conspiracy, violation of the drug tax stamp act, and possession of paraphernalia. His wife, Loretta, was convicted of the same charges. Their son, Cody, was also convicted of misdemeanor cannabis possession and paraphernalia.
The Mackenzies have received support from across the country. One group posted a Facebook page urging President Obama to “pardon the Mackenzie family,” and a White House petition gathered several hundred signatures in a matter of days.
Dottie Mackenzie said she and her husband rejected numerous plea offers before the charges were dropped. They asserted their innocence and said they did nothing wrong.
“I think public pressure had a great deal to do with it, and the fact they had absolutely no evidence,” she said the day after the ruling. “They offered a plea, if we plead guilty to gathering and paraphernalia, and I said absolutely not. We’re not guilty of any of those.”
The couple also rejected an offer to drop the charges after six months if they stayed out of trouble, Dottie Mackenzie said.
“Detectives were just determined we were criminals, and they painted us as a whole family of criminals,” she said.
Pot Used to Treat Terminal Cancer
Doctors diagnosed Benton Mackenzie with terminal angiosarcoma, a blood-vessel cancer, in 2011. He grew the weed at his parents’ house in Long Grove, Iowa, and used an oil extract to treat his condition. Even his father, a longtime opponent of the drug, reported that marijuana helped his son’s symptoms.
But Benton Mackenzie wasn’t allowed to mention any of that during his trial – not even the fact he suffers from cancer.
The elder Mackenzies said helping their son was an easy choice all along. Iowa’s legal system failed them, Dottie Mackenzie said, but they never doubted the decision.
“Do we help him and break the law, or do we turn our backs?” she asked. “I don’t know any parent who would do the latter.”
Now, the family is considering a move to Texas, and the legal difficulties in Iowa have made that choice much more appealing, she said.
“We have a legal system,” Dottie Mackenzie said. “We don’t have a justice system, which is too bad.”