Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jan 2008
Source: Times-News, The (ID)
Copyright: 2008 Magic Valley Newspapers
Author: Cassidy Friedman


Three plaintiffs come from city government By Cassidy Friedman
Times-News writer The attorneys could have gone on arguing forever.

The issue of marijuana reform, which has been on the mind of Hailey
city officials since voters passed three initiatives in November, did
not go away when the attorney general and the Hailey city attorney
struck down the measures.

The two attorneys determined that the three initiatives - including
legalization of medicinal marijuana and industrial hemp, and making
the enforcement of marijuana laws a lower police priority - violate
federal and state laws.

City officials said they expect to see marijuana advocates present
four new initiatives for a special election in February.

So on Tuesday evening, Mayor Rick Davis, Chief of Police Jeff Gunther
and City Councilman Don Keirn decided to take the contentious issue
before a judge - hoping a gavel will settle the matter. Whatever the
judge decides, council members will obey, Keirn said.

"We kind of could see this as an ongoing thing," Keirn said. "They are
either legal, in which case we in the city have to enforce them or
they are illegal in which case we will ignore them."

The paradox is how to get there.

To get a district judge to hear the case, the three plaintiffs are
suing Hailey - the city they represent - for passing illegal
initiatives. The city attorney, who has argued the initiatives are
largely illegal, will have to switch sides.

"As far as I am concerned, Civics 101, the Legislature can pass a law
and the court can decide if that law is legal," said the Hailey City
Attorney Ned Williamson. "It's the same process if people pass a law
and let the judge decide if it's legal."

Williamson, as the city attorney, will represent the city and defend
the initiatives. The plaintiffs will use city money to hire another
attorney to argue the initiatives are illegal and should be struck
down. A judge could also rule partially in favor of either side.

"I think what the goal here is to make a determination on all or part
of the ordinances and if a judge determines some parts are illegal
some parts will be stricken," he said. "This is a common technique
used in court to test the legality of laws. It is called declaratory

Williamson's own advice and the advice he conveyed from the Idaho
Attorney General's Office was to strip the initiatives down to their
bare bones. That counsel infuriated the initiatives' author Ryan Davidson.

Williamson recommended City Council members cut out making medicinal
marijuana legal and render impotent a committee charged with making
marijuana Hailey police's lowest priority.

Keirn said Williamson has begun to identify potential attorneys to
represent the plaintiffs. Keirn also said he did not know when the
plaintiffs will file their lawsuit.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake