Larimer County, Colorado District Court Judge James Hiatt ordered the cops to return 39 seized marijuana plants and a grow system to a couple who grew the plants as caregivers for themselves and a few other patients.

Brian Vincente, lawyer for the couple, hopes authorities have taken care of the plants as provided by the state’s medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 2000. “If they’ve allowed these plants to die, they’ve broken the law,” said Vincente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, a non-profit advocacy group of medical marijuana patients. He described the ruling as the largest return of medical marijuana to a grower since the law went into effect. If the plants were destroyed, Vincente said his clients will seek compensation for the plants, which he estimated to be about $100,000.

The prosecution is deciding whether to appeal the judge’s order.

The issue:

In June 2006, Hiatt tossed out the charges against the Masters after ruling that the search warrant was illegal. Vincente argued that the officer who drafted the warrant, “wrote up a search warrant on what he had already searched.” Monday’s hearing concerned the issue of whether the marijuana and equipment seized was contraband or property that needed to be returned to the Masters.

A four hour hearing was held:

Hiatt heard about four hours of testimony from police as well as people who said they rely upon the couple not only for medical marijuana, but for rides to hospitals and doctors and other care.

He ordered the return of the pot and grow system.