DAVENPORT, Iowa — A dying Iowa man who grew marijuana to treat terminal cancer was sentenced to probation Tuesday, avoiding prison even as he defended his decision to violate the law.

Judge Henry Latham chastised 48-year-old Benton Mackenzie for ignoring the law by growing 71 marijuana plants in a trailer outside his parents’ eastern Iowa home. He said growing so many plants would not be legal even in the 23 states that allow medical marijuana, which Iowa does not, and noted Mackenzie had two prior drug convictions.

But Latham said he was using his discretion to grant probation so Mackenzie could receive medical treatment for angiosarcoma, a rare cancer of the blood vessels that has caused large skin lesions on his buttocks. Latham suspended a potential 15-year prison sentence and issued a three-year term of probation instead, a relief to supporters and medical marijuana advocates.


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