RIP Benton Mackenzie: Medical Cannabis Activist Dies of Cancer After Family’s Long Battle with Iowa for Safe Access

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Benton Mackenzie with parents Dorothy and Charles

Benton Mackenzie with parents Dorothy and Charles

Early in the morning of January 12th, 2015, Benton Mackenzie’s son Cody went to check on his dying father, only to find that he had passed away in his sleep after a last day spent with his beloved family. Benton Mackenzie was only 49 years old, but he had been battling angiosarcoma since his diagnosis in 2011. Though traditional medicine offered little hope, telling Benton the diagnosis was terminal, he and his family decided to try anything necessary. In what can only be called the ultimate testimony to our nation’s broken drug laws, Benton was also forced to battle the state of Iowa for his freedom and denied the medicine that he claimed was keeping his cancer at Stage 1 for years: cannabis oil and raw, juiced cannabis from a strain high in cannabidiol (CBD).

Benton, Loretta and Cody Mackenzie

Benton, Loretta and Cody Mackenzie

 When a tip brought law enforcement to the Mackenzie home and a search of their refuse turned up the juiced cannabis material, resulting in criminal charges being brought against Benton Mackenzie, his wife Loretta and their son, Cody. Despite Benton’s serious medical condition and anecdotal story of success fighting this incurable cancer, Scott County refused to allow them to even tell the jury Benton had terminal cancer, let alone that he was using the cannabis to treat it during his trial. In the end, Benton found guilty and was sentenced to probation instead of prison, but by this time he had been months without his treatment (to say nothing of the stress caused by being prosecuted). By the end of his time in court, Benton’s angiosarcoma had progressed to Stage IV. 

Like Benton, Loretta and Cody were both convicted (of conspiracy to cultivate cannabis and drug possession, respectively). They were also given probation. After their perprosecution by the state, in a move likely motivated by the national attention the court case had received, they were permitted to travel to Oregon to look for cannabis oil. It was too little, too late for Benton, and the last months of 2014 were spent in hospice care. His family was devoted to him through his final days and remain dedicated to fighting prohibition in memory of this brave man.

Benton, your struggle and courage brought national attention to the terrible situation facing cannabis patients in over half the country. Your ability to stand up and speak up gave a voice to countless others like yourself, railroaded by a criminally corrupt justice system and denied the right to explain why they used cannabis. You have inspired people all over the world and given hope to many more, who many know now a cannabis oil treatment might be an option for them. You will be remembered; your name will be counted among the many casualties of prohibition, though you were so much more than that. You were a father, a son, a husband, a community member, a music lover and a good man.

For those wishing to leave condolences for the Mackenzie family, the Free Benton Mackenzie Facebook page is here. The family also has a funding website which will likely go to funeral and medical costs now, instead of funding a trip to Oregon for cancer treatment.

Photo Credit: The Benton Family via Facebook