Imagine if Amsterdam suddenly popped up in the foothills north of the Magic Valley.

Picture the problems that city of personal freedoms might encounter trying to mesh its liberal marijuana laws with a state and federal legal system dead set against it. That's close to the chaos Hailey voters triggered when they narrowly adopted three initiatives aimed at liberalizing restrictions on marijuana.

And the Hailey City Council will begin navigating those shoals at a meeting on Nov. 26.

"The Hailey City Council is faced with a number of challenges," wrote Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson in a press release Monday. William-son noted particular consequences of the initiatives most likely to trigger problems.

All three initiatives raise serious questions, he said.

The three measures that passed were to legalize medical marijuana, make enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest police priority, and legalize industrial hemp. But voters turned down the initiative that would have legalized marijuana use and required the city to regulate sales.

The first and possibly most contentious initiative, the Hailey Medical Marijuana Act, would create an ordinance legalizing use and possession of 35 grams for medicinal purposes. But the courts have held that state and federal laws, which criminalize marijuana, trump local ordinances, which attempt to decriminalize it.

That could mean mini-Amsterdam takes a hit.

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The second initiative, aimed at encouraging Hailey police officers to ease up on pot offenses, might encroach on the administrative autonomy of the Hailey police and prosecutor. Making laws that control how public offices are administrated is illegal in Idaho. This act would create a Community Oversight Committee responsible for ensuring that police shift their priorities away from pot offenses. In the course of the committee overseeing public offices, they could trample the offices' autonomy.

The press release raised additional questions regarding political advocacy and city officials.

All three laws require city officials to advocate for marijuana law reform, which could restrict their freedom of speech. And Carol Brown, a City Council member who is also a federal employee, has to follow federal ethics laws prohibiting federal employees from lobbying. If Brown doesn't recuse herself, Williamson wrote in the press release, she may have to resign from City Council.

Liberty Lobby, Ryan Davidson's group that introduced the ballot measure, entitles itself through the acts to automatic membership on the oversight committee. But securing an inflexible spot on the committee may not be appropriate, he wrote.

Cass Friedman can be reached at 735-3241 or


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