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A Yuba County judge, saying "I don't like what I'm about to do," ordered
that medical marijuana be returned to a Linda couple arrested last August
and later cleared of drug charges.

Judge James Curry ruled Monday in the case of Doyle and Belinda Satterfield.

"The Satterfields legally possessed the marijuana they had," Curry said.
"It is not contraband under the current state of the law."

Jud Waggoman, the attorney for Belinda Satterfield, said he was told the
marijuana - 37 plants and 41/2 pounds of dried marijuana - would be turned
over today.

"I was shocked," Belinda Satterfield said of Curry's ruling. "I didn't know
if it was going to go our way or not. Maybe it will help people with
medical problems."

The Satterfields were arrested in August and charged with illegal marijuana
cultivation. The charges were dropped in January after they showed
prosecutors that they had a legitimate need for the drug.

Doyle Satterfield uses the marijuana for his insomnia and arthritis, while
his wife requires it to cope with chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.

Justin Scott, Doyle Satterfield's lawyer, told Curry that the "numerous
objections raised by prosecutors and sheriffs" to returning medical
marijuana have been rejected throughout the state.

"In our view, there's only one right answer: the Satterfields' medicine
should be returned to them," he said.

District Attorney Pat McGrath said courts have gone through a lot of
"semantic gymnastics" about medical marijuana since voters passed
Proposition 215 in 1996.

"Even though the case was dismissed, the evidence remains contraband,"
McGrath said.

Scott disagreed, telling Curry: "It's not contraband. It is a controlled
substance. All prescribed drugs are controlled substances, but not contraband."

In court papers, Scott cited nine criminal cases that ended with the return
of medical marijuana. Those cases occurred in Ventura, Placer, San
Bernardino, Sonoma, Mendocino and San Joaquin counties.

"Courts all over the state of California are returning medical marijuana to
patients who are determined to be in compliance with the medical marijuana
laws," Scott wrote. "No law enforcement officials or judges have ever been
prosecuted ... as a result of the return of medical marijuana."

Published Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Harold Kruger
Marysville (CA) Appeal-Democrat
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