Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hailey voters say ?yes? to marijuana reforms

Results likely to lead to more litigation

Express Staff Writer

Hailey's electorate approved three of four marijuana legalization or reform initiatives in a city election Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Voter returns that came in late Tuesday night showed close voting but approval of initiatives to legalize medical use of marijuana, to make enforcement of marijuana laws the city's lowest police priority and to legalize industrial use of hemp.

The initiative that failed would have mandated the city to regulate and tax marijuana sales and to establish a Community Oversight Committee to iron out the details for legalization.

The three approved initiatives also require the Community Oversight Committee to work out the details for implementation. The initiatives further require that the city of Hailey lobby other branches of government for the reform of marijuana laws.

The taxation and regulation initiative failed by a vote of 573-674, while the marijuana medical initiative passed by a vote of 687-581.

Hailey voters favored the police priority initiative by a margin of 637-601. The industrial hemp measure passed by 683-565.

Hailey City Clerk Heather Dawson said 1,288 voters of the city's 3,494 registered electorate turned out to vote in Tuesday's election.

Ryan Davidson, chairman of The Liberty Lobby of Idaho and the man who got the initiatives on the Hailey ballot, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday but said earlier that he was confident the initiatives would succeed.

The vote on the initiatives culminated more than three years of work on Davidson's behalf to put legalization issues before voters in the Wood River Valley. He started the project in August of 2004 when he presented initiating petitions for legalization to the cities of Hailey, Sun Valley and Ketchum. All three entities denied his petitions and a series of court actions ensued.

In September 2006, Davidson won a major victory when the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that municipalities do not have the right to determine the constitutionality of proposed initiatives. With that victory in hand, Davidson renewed his legalization efforts in 2007 and successfully landed the four initiatives on this year's Hailey general election ballot.

He continues to work his proposed initiatives in Ketchum and Sun Valley and hopes to have them on ballots in those cities as early as the primary elections in May of 2008.

His work in the Wood River Valley is part of a larger grassroots effort to reform marijuana laws statewide.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Attorney General's Office has declined to say what it will do if any of the Hailey initiatives pass, but issued a statement last week reminding voters that possession of marijuana is a crime under both state and federal law.

City Attorney Ned Williamson predicted prior to the election that the city will be subjected to future litigation if the initiatives pass and said that the costs could be high for Hailey taxpayers.

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