Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hailey changes course on pot initiatives

Council decides to litigate rather than amend policies


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Hailey Mayor Rick Davis announced at Monday?s council meeting that city officials will file a lawsuit concerning three controversial marijuana initiatives approved by the electorate in November. Photo by Mountain Express

Hailey city officials have decided to go to court over three controversial marijuana initiatives approved by the electorate in November.

The decision, announced by Mayor Rick Davis at the conclusion of Monday's City Council meeting, is a change of course from a council decision of only two weeks earlier when it voted to amend the illegalities out of the three initiatives.

The reason for the change of direction? Pro-marijuana advocate Ryan Davidson filed four new initiative petitions with the city clerk's office on Jan. 22. The proposed initiatives are identical to the ones put before the voters on Nov. 6.

Hailey voters approved three of the four, rejecting one that would have paved the way for outright legalization of marijuana in the city of Hailey. Approved were initiatives to legalize medical use of marijuana, legalize industrial hemp and make enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest priority of the city's police department.

Davis' announcement Monday night followed an executive session requested by City Attorney Ned Williamson. Davidson's new initiative petition filings were the primary topic when council met in private.

A press release issued by the city states that a complaint will be filed in 5th District Court seeking a declaratory judgment as to the legality of the voter-approved initiatives.

"We need some closure on this," Davis said Tuesday. "If we get this declaratory judgment then Davidson can be reading off the same page.

"It's going to tell us what we can enforce legally and what we cannot. I just want to get if from the court."

Provisions of all three of the initiatives are obviously contrary to both state and federal law.

Davidson once lived in Bellevue but now lives in Garden City. He is director of The Liberty Lobby of Idaho and was the initiator of the four initiatives put to the voters in November.

Davidson's efforts in Hailey are part of a larger grassroots agenda to have marijuana laws reformed statewide and nationally.

The title of a 1948 Louis Prima jazz hit seems applicable to post-election efforts of Hailey-area marijuana advocates as city officials seeks to undo their November victory: "Heap big smoke but no fire."

Marijuana advocates have made a fuss on various Web sites, but have been strangely absent at City Council meetings where the issue has been discussed repeatedly during the last several months.

The lone exception occurred Monday night when Hailey resident John Caccia addressed the council. But Caccia's only issue is legalization of industrial hemp and he said he voted against the other pro-pot initiatives.

"Industrial hemp is altogether different," Caccia said, explaining that hemp is used worldwide in industrial applications but is against the law in the United States.

"I think the public is not being served by lumping industrial hemp with the marijuana issue," he said.

Industrial hemp and marijuana for smoking purposes are derived from the same species of cannabis plant but are of different varieties. Industrial hemp is extremely low in THC, the chemical that produces a high.

In terms of THC, Caccia described industrial hemp as "herbal tea" and marijuana as "bourbon."

Worldwide, industrial hemp's uses include production of rope, clothing, paper products, food and lotions.

Federal and state law put hemp and marijuana in the same category as illegal substances.




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