Friday, February 17, 2012

Marijuana committee to be dissolved

Twice-yearly meetings would end

Express Staff Writer

An oversight committee formed in the wake of initiatives passed by Hailey voters in 2008 to weaken marijuana laws in the city may soon be dissolved.

"We realized there is not very much else we can do unless there is a state referendum or the Legislature changes the laws about marijuana," said Marijuana Oversight Committee Chair Peter Lobb.

Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said he will hold a public hearing on Feb. 27 to taek comment on the issue, before the City Council votes on whether to dissolve the committee.

The initiatives allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes, legalized industrial hemp and made enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest priority for Hailey police.

The committee succeeded in 2010 in establishing marijuana use violations as the lowest police priority for the Hailey Police Department, but has since found little else to talk about or work toward.

Besides Lobb, the committee members are Tom Hickey, Steve England, Joanie Allen and Frank Halverson.

The City Council took the committee's recommendation to pass a lowest police priority ordinance in 2010 after committee Secretary and Hailey Police Lt. Steve England redacted ordinance language to reduce potential conflict with federal authorities, which could have reduced federal funding for the city.

"The Blaine County sheriff still has jurisdiction in Hailey and can enforce marijuana laws at any priority it chooses," Lobb said.

Lobb said that after the committee failed to meet the required number of times in 2011 (once every six months) he was asked by City Attorney Ned Williamson if it should be dissolved. Lobb said he polled the other members of the committee and found them in agreement that it should be.

Lobb told the Hailey City Council last week that state law would trump any further efforts by the committee to legalize or regulate marijuana use.

"We have an oversight committee with nothing to oversee," he said in an interview. "The 5th District Court threw out most everything from the three referendums, except the least priority, which Mayor Rick Davis did establish. It's a waste of time to keep meeting with nothing to do."

Tony Evans:

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