The Coastal Post:
 September 1999- Disabled woman and caregiver faced deputies guns. The Coastal Post:
 September 1999- Disabled woman and caregiver faced deputies guns.

Cops Give Back Man's Marijuana
Judge Says Chronic-Pain Sufferer Is Entitled to Drug

March 1, 2000

By Richard Zitrin


SANTA ROSA, Calif. ( -- A year and a half after sheriff's deputies seized more than a pound of marijuana from a local man, a Sonoma County judge gave the marijuana back, ruling he could legally use it to cope with chronic pain.

On Tuesday, Court Commissioner Gayle Guynup returned more than a pound of marijuana to Scott Teeter, who suffers from a spinal injury. He twice broke his neck, once in a swimming pool accident and another time in a car accident, said his attorney, Sandy Feinland.

"I suffer from chronic pain syndrome," Teeter said Tuesday. "I use marijuana to help me with nausea, appetite, and fluid increase, things that are side effects of the other medications that I take. And I also use it for pain."

Teeter said the 1 1/4 pounds of marijuana he was given back is a three-month supply.

Ruling shows law's vagueness

It's the first time in Sonoma County that marijuana seized by police has been returned since California voters approved Proposition 215 in November 1996, allowing people to possess marijuana for medicinal purposes, Deputy District Attorney Carla Claeys said.

Prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor drug charge originally filed against Teeter after he proved he had a legitimate medical reason to smoke marijuana, she said.

Claeys said this case illustrates a problem with the state law.

"Our office feels that the law is unclear and that this does not set any sort of precedent," she told "It just highlights the vagueness of the law as to how much is reasonable to possess."

Teeter, who is in his 40s, was arrested in the fall of 1998 after sheriff's deputies went to his home in this northern California county looking for his brother, Feinland said.

Attorney: Officer played doctor

Teeter was charged with drug possession when deputies found more than a pound of cultivated marijuana and 53 plants inside his home, Feinland said.


"He explained he's a medical patient and that he had approval from his doctor," Feinland told "He even showed them three approvals from his doctor. Unfortunately, a lot of discretion is left in the hands of police, who are still biased against marijuana. Unfortunately, in this case, the officer investigating played doctor and decided that Mr. Teeter had too much for his medical use."

Police let Teeter keep two of the 53 plants and a quarter-ounce of the cultivated marijuana, which was a two-day supply, Feinland said.

After prosecutors dropped the drug possession charge last fall, Feinland moved to get his client's property returned. Teeter's doctor and an expert in the medical use of marijuana testified on his behalf, and Friday the judge ruled that authorities had to return the marijuana.

"He's very pleased," Feinland said.