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Marijuana Referendum Looms Large In Hailey

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
Litigation Likely If Pot Initiatives Approved By Electorate

If a set of proposed marijuana legalization initiatives are approved in Hailey, a maelstrom of opposition may arise from state and federal government.

The Idaho Attorney General's Office declined to say what it will do if marijuana is legalized in the city, but issued the following statement on Monday through spokeswoman Kriss Bivens Cloyd:

"The municipalities do not have the authority to repeal state or federal criminal laws. Under state and federal law possession of marijuana is a crime."

But there's no need to get excited yet. The initiatives would require that Hailey establish a Community Oversight Committee to work out the details of legalization. The committee would be allowed up to one year to get its work done.

Jack Van Valkenburgh, executive director of the Idaho chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization with extensive experience in constitutional law litigation, agreed that state law would supercede local law, but said he supports the marijuana legalization initiatives nonetheless.

"Local measures need to comply with state law, but if it gets the discussion going that's great," Van Valkenburgh said. "I think it's great that it's going forward as an educational venture. I'd like to see it pass overwhelmingly."

If legalization initiatives are approved and implemented, somebody will likely sue, but there's no clear-cut procedure that falls into place when local law conflicts with state law, or even when state law conflicts with federal law--Americans fought a bloody civil war over that kind of political conflict.

"It will be litigated in some way or another," Van Valkenburgh said.

Hailey's electorate will vote on four different marijuana legalization or reform measures on Nov. 6. The initiatives were started by Ryan Davidson, a former Bellevue resident who now lives in Garden City and is the chairman of The Liberty Lobby of Idaho.

Meanwhile, Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson warned that approval and implementation of the legalization measures could be a costly to Hailey taxpayers.

"If any or all of these four initiatives are passed by the voters, then I would expect a court challenge," Williamson wrote in a letter to the editor to the Idaho Mountain Express. "The defense of any of these initiatives would subject Hailey taxpayers to potentially significant attorney fees and costs."

A potential legal battle looms, but that's sort of the whole idea to Davidson, a dedicated, if not fanatical, advocate of government reform. The Hailey initiatives are part of a grassroots effort that he hopes will spread statewide and beyond.

"If they all pass and they all get thrown out, then it still wasn't in vain because sending the message is the most important aspect of the thing," Davidson said.

"If the initiatives pass and no one ever sues, then theoretically you could have marijuana shops in Hailey," he said. "But the county's not going to allow that to happen. The sheriff's likely to arrest anyone in Hailey violating marijuana laws."

Hailey police aren't particularly worried about the implications of the initiatives.

"There will be a lot of legal possibilities until we get into what we're going to do," said Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter.

Four different pot initiatives

Hailey voters will encounter a lengthier ballot than usual when they step into voting booths on Nov. 6. The Hailey City Council opted to print the initiatives in their entirety, rather than try to summarize them for quicker reading.

All four of the proposed initiatives are lengthy. Voters who want to read them in advance can pick up copies at Hailey City Hall or view them on they city's web site at City of Hailey.

Following is a brief summary of the four initiatives.

- - The Hailey Cannabis Regulation and Revenue Ordinance. Just as the title implies, the initiative would require that the city regulate sales and use of cannabis, a scientific name for marijuana, and would allow the city to tax the substance.

Davidson considers this the most important of the four initiatives. It doesn't implicitly say that marijuana would be legal in the city, but establishes a framework to come up with the details. The framework would be the Community Oversight Committee. It would be allowed to deliberate for a year before finalizing legalization specifics.

The initiative also would require that the city of Hailey lobby other branches of the government for the reform of marijuana laws.

- - The Hailey Medical Marijuana Act would legalize medical use of marijuana. The details of legalization would be worked out by the Community Oversight Committee. This, and the following initiative, would also require that the city lobby for marijuana reform.

- - The Hailey Lowest Police Priority Act. Davidson thinks this one has the greatest chance of approval. The initiative would make investigation of adult marijuana use the city's lowest law enforcement priority.

- - The Hailey Industrial Hemp Act. This fourth initiative would legalize industrial use of hemp, a marijuana byproduct consisting of the fibrous stems. Industrial hemp is not usable by marijuana smokers since it's low on THC, the chemical that induces a high.

- - Simple Majority. A simple majority is required for passage of any or all of the four initiatives.

Source: Idaho Mountain Express (ID)
Copyright: 2007 Express Publishing, Inc
Contact: letters@mtexpress.com
Website: mtexpress.com | News, Sports, Arts, Events, Calendar and Classifieds for Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue, Carey and Blaine County, Idaho - Idaho Mountain Express Newspaper - mtexpress.com
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