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Marijuana initiative gets Idaho high court's go-ahead

Sun Valley - City officials had rejected the petition, which proposes that residents can grow, sell and use pot

The Origonian, October 01, 2006

BOISE -- An initiative proposal that would allow residents to grow, sell and use marijuana within Sun Valley's city limits can move forward, the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled.

Two years ago, Ryan Davidson turned in a sample petition on the marijuana initiative to Sun Valley city officials so it could be checked for the format required by the city's rules.

But instead of simply telling Davidson whether the paper, the number of signatures per page and other technical details of the petition were correct, the city rejected the petition altogether, saying it was contrary to state law and therefore outside the scope of the city's initiative process.

All five Idaho Supreme Court justices have ordered the city to consider the petition. Whether or not the initiative turns out to be legal, the justices ruled, is a matter for the courts to consider, if and when the initiative passes.

"The city protests that if the clerk cannot halt unconstitutional initiatives any group could submit petitions for any number of outlandish causes," Justice Roger S. Burdick wrote on behalf of three justices last week. "While it is true that many such initiatives could be proposed, sorting through the substance of proposed initiatives to separate the wheat from the chaff is not the role of the city clerk."

Instead, the voting public and the courts hold the power to check initiatives, and city councils can repeal or amend ordinances passed by direct legislation, Burdick wrote.

Besides allowing the regulated growth, sale and use of marijuana in Sun Valley, Davidson's initiative would have directed the city to push state leaders for a change in Idaho's marijuana laws. Finally, it would have directed local law enforcement officers to make enforcing marijuana violations by adults their lowest priority.

The Supreme Court majority declined to rule on whether the initiative, if passed, would be legal.

Chief Justice Gerald Schroeder, while agreeing that the city should consider the initiative, wrote a separate opinion so that he could specifically say that if the initiative passed, portions of it would violate state law and be invalid.

"Time, effort and money will have been wasted, except to the extent that lawmakers will have the opinion of a small segment of the state's qualified electors," Schroeder wrote. "Nonetheless, the decision to allow the process to play itself out without judicial intervention is appropriate."