Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sun Valley would process marijuana petition

Election could proceed if petition requirements met

Express Staff Writer

Adam King

The citizens of Sun Valley could vote on whether to legalize marijuana within the city limits if a political advocacy group pushing the measure meets the city's requirements for initiative petitions.

"We will certainly respect the Supreme Court's decision," said Assistant City Attorney Adam King.

He was referring to a Sept. 27 Idaho Supreme Court decision that said the city does not have the authority to determine the constitutionality of the proposed initiative and must allow the process to proceed.

Ryan Davidson, chairman of Liberty Lobby of Idaho, said he will likely push for petition initiatives to legalize marijuana, not only in Sun Valley, but in Ketchum and Hailey as well.

How soon that could happen is uncertain. Davidson, a former Bellevue resident who now lives in Garden City, said he is looking for funding from pro-marijuana advocacy groups to help further his agenda. Either that, he said, or he needs some area residents to help champion the cause.

Davidson said he's not sure how many signatures he'll need to get his marijuana initiative on a ballot in Sun Valley because the city is out of compliance with state law regarding the number of signatures required.

He said Sun Valley requires signatures totaling 20 percent of the registered voters in the city, whereas state law mandates that only 20 percent of the total that voted in the last election are required for initiative petitions.

"If they're smart, they'll go with the 20 percent of the voters in the last election," he said.

Davidson has been embroiled in legal battles with the cities of Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey for more than two years. He said his Supreme Court victory in the Sun Valley case gives him the green light to push for pro-marijuana elections in any city in Idaho.

Davidson's proposed initiatives would make it legal within respective city limits to grow, sell and use marijuana, under certain restrictions. If such initiatives were to pass, though, they could still be subject to legal challenges or the actions of city councils.

"The city council has the power to repeal a law passed by initiative," King said. "The proposed marijuana initiative is clearly unconstitutional. Local laws cannot supercede state law."

King said the Supreme Court decision heralds a turning point in the high court's attitude toward the initiative process, which gives citizens the right to propose and pass laws separate from city councils or other governing bodies.

"It's obvious to me that the Supreme Court has decided to take initiative law in a new direction," King said. "And while I disagree with that, I understand what they're trying to do. The problem is that any initiative, no matter how unconstitutional, can be the subject of an election.

"I don't think Sun Valley, per se, could get a lot of strange initiatives, but we could see them statewide," King said.

State law declares that possession of 3 ounces or more of marijuana is a felony that can bring five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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