Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hailey delays decision on pot initiatives


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Hailey City Councilman Don Keirn questions whether the city should form an oversight committee to ensure implementation of approved marijuana initiatives. Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson addresses the council.

The Hailey City Council will scratch its collective head a little longer over three sticky marijuana initiatives approved by voters in November.

"This is such a unique situation that I feel comfortable for you to take your time in dealing with it," Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson told the council Thursday evening after discussing a report on the initiatives from the Idaho Attorney General's Office.

The report identifies three legal conflicts with the initiatives. One, marijuana is illegal in Idaho and cities do not have the authority to override state law; two, provisions of the initiatives that require city officials to lobby for reform of marijuana laws violate constitutional free speech rights; and three, the initiative that makes enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest police priority inappropriately meddles with administrative matters.

"The observations contained in this letter identify the clearly unlawful provisions of these initiatives," states the report, signed by Deputy Attorney General Mitchell E. Toryanski and dated Dec. 20. "In addition, there are other issues, some of a constitutional nature, that will be problematic if these initiatives are enforced."

Williamson told the council that he "literally just got this before the meeting."

"The bottom line is that they (the attorney general's office) conclude that major issues of the provisions are illegal," he said.

Hailey voters approved three controversial marijuana or hemp initiatives in the Nov. 6 city election. One would legalize medical use of marijuana, a second would legalize the production of industrial hemp and a third would make enforcement of marijuana laws the city's lowest police priority.

Based on the attorney general's report, Williamson told the council that it now has three choices. It can either start litigation over the initiatives, repeal them or amend them.

Williamson said that if the provisions the attorney general's office determined to be invalid are removed from the initiatives, then all that's left are some policy statements and the establishment of a Community Oversight Committee.

All three of the initiatives provided for the establishment of a Community Oversight Committee to iron out the details of implementation, but Williamson said the committee could also be used to make recommendations to the council or even to advocate stricter marijuana laws in the city.

Councilman Don Keirn said that establishing the committee didn't seem like a good idea.

"If everything else is illegal, what the hell are they going to talk about?" Keirn asked. "I don't think anybody's going to want to sit on a committee that's going nowhere. I go around and talk to people and they say, 'Why would I want to be on that stupid thing.'"

The council decided to table the issue until its next meeting, in early January 2008.




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