Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hailey snuffs out pot initiatives

Council votes to amend them into oblivion

Express Staff Writer

Ryan Davidson

They weren't killed outright, but the Hailey City Council effectively snuffed out three controversial marijuana reform initiatives approved by voters in November.

Instead of repealing the initiatives, the council voted unanimously Monday to amend them into meaninglessness. Since the meeting was running late, the members scheduled a dissection of the three initiatives for their next meeting on Jan. 28.

At that time, the council will consider sanitized versions of the initiatives prepared by City Attorney Ned Williamson, who said he'll take out provisions contrary to federal or state law.

All that will be left will be some sort of a "marijuana" oversight committee, originally intended in the initiatives as a way to work out the details for their implementation into law.

Council President Martha Burke said the fact that the initiatives passed shows that many voters want marijuana laws reformed and a committee would give those voters an avenue to explore those issues.

"I think an awful lot of people wanted the laws addressed," Burke said.

But Councilman Don Keirn said that forming the committee would be a waste of time.

"We'll have an awful lot of people doing stuff that accomplishes nothing," Keirn said. "Who wants to waste their time?"

With the sanitized versions of the initiatives, gone will be a provision that would have allowed legal smoking of pot for medicinal reasons, a provision that would have allowed farmers to grow hemp for industrial purposes and a provision that would have made enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest priority for the Hailey Police Department.

The three initiatives, approved by simple majority on Nov. 6, 2007, were put to the electorate mainly through the efforts of Ryan Davidson, a former Bellevue man who now lives in Garden City and is director of The Liberty Lobby of Idaho.

"I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed," Davidson said. "I guess I'll have to figure out what to do next."

An option he's considering is introducing other marijuana reform initiatives in Hailey. He's also looking at reform initiatives in Ketchum and possibly Sun Valley.

Davidson's work is part of a grassroots effort to reform state and federal marijuana laws.

The Hailey City Council's decision to kill the reform initiatives was not unexpected. Council members have shown no inclination to adopt the initiatives into law and instead have had attorney Williamson work with the Idaho Attorney General's Office to come up with justifications to invalidate them.

The vote was 4-0, with Burke, Keirn, Fritz Haemmerle and Mayor Rick Davis in agreement on the issue. Councilwoman Carol Brown declined to participate in either the discussion or the vote, as she has since the initiatives were approved by the electorate. As a U.S. Forest Service employee, Brown has said, she has been advised by her employer that she should not participate in issues that are in conflict with federal law.

Numerous legal issues were discussed but council members said their main reason for amending the initiatives was so that they wouldn't violate their oaths of office, wherein they swear to uphold the laws of the United States and the state of Idaho.

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