Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hailey ends marijuana fight

Forms committees to handle policy

Express Staff Writer

What began as a controversial initiative to legalize marijuana use in the city of Hailey in 2007, may have ended Monday night as a footnote in the city's municipal code. Yet the city will form a committee to address the initiatives' original concerns.

City Attorney Ned Williamson will provide an annotation in the city's law book, explaining what happened for future generations, including a small description of the marijuana initiatives with dates, and the challenges to them, "just so that it's clear in an unbiased and objective way what happened, because 20 years from now people may not know."

Hailey voters approved three marijuana and industrial hemp initiatives in 2007 and again in 2008. The initiatives were titled the Hailey Medical Marijuana Act, the Hailey Lowest Police Priority Act and the Hailey Industrial Hemp Act.

The city delayed implementing the initiatives into law, and instead Mayor Rick Davis, City Councilman Don Keirn and Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter filed a lawsuit last May against the city seeking a judicial review of the legality of the initiatives.

Davis, Keirn and Gunter were represented by Hailey attorney Keith Roark, while City Attorney Ned Williamson found himself in the unusual position of arguing for the initiatives.

Arguments were presented to Blaine County 5th District Court Judge Robert J. Elgee, who ruled in March that the initiatives were either contrary to Idaho State law, in conflict with "free speech" guarantees of the U.S. constitution, or illegal because they address administrative functions of local government.

Councilman Fritz Haemmerle and coucil woman Martha Burke voted Monday night not to appeal Elgee's decision. Carol Brown, Don Keirn and Mayor Rick Davis recused themselves during the vote.

"The City has been criticized for this, but when we take the oath of office we swear to uphold the law," said Haemmerle. "These initiatives would not have been consistent with state or federal laws."

In keeping with language remaining in the initiatives that was not redacted by Elgee, a seven member oversight committee will be formed to write reports and make recommendations to the city council on the failed initiatives.

Williamson said he will draft bylaws for the committee, similar to those used by the city's Tree Committee and Arts Committee.

"I'm not sure how long the committee will last, but they will be able to make recommendations to the council and proceed accordingly," said Williamson.

Tony Evans:

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