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.

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"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 judgment."

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.

Cassidy Friedman can be reached at 735-3241 or cfriedman@magicvalley.com

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