Friday, September 18, 2009
Idaho Medical Marijuana News
Hailey hosts pot-reform-funding showdown
Marijuana advocate suing national pro-pot organization
By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 2009
The executive director of a national pro-marijuana organization
claims that pot reformist Ryan Davidson's inability to get marijuana
initiatives on ballots in Blaine County in 2004 was a "catastrophic
failure of the whole campaign."
Rob Kampia, head of the Washington, D.C.,-based Marijuana Policy
Project, testified in court Thursday that Davidson's failure was a major
reason the organization revoked funding for his pro-marijuana campaign
in the Wood River Valley.
"Almost everything in the campaign was going poorly," Kampia said in
Blaine County 5th District Court, the setting for a jury trial this week
over Davidson's claim that the organization breached a contract when it
revoked his $60,000 grant in September 2004.
Davidson is seeking $44,000 in grant balance plus interest, attorney
fees and unspecified "incidental and consequential damages."
The trial started Wednesday, testimony was concluded Thursday and
closing arguments are set for today.
Davidson, who now lives in Garden City, started a marijuana reform
campaign in the county in 2004 and submitted petitions for ballot
initiatives at that time to the cities of Hailey, Ketchum and Sun
Valley. All three cities rejected Davidson's petitions and declined to
put them on ballots for the November 2004 elections.
Davidson continued working on the campaign even after the grant was
withdrawn. In 2006, he won a victory over the city of Sun Valley before
the Idaho Supreme Court, which ruled that the city did not have the
authority to determine the constitutionality of proposed ballot
The agreement between Davidson and the national organization
specified pro-marijuana activities Davidson was to undertake in the Wood
River Valley from August 2004 through March 2005.
Presiding Judge John K. Butler ruled prior to the trial that
evidence of activities undertaken by Davidson after March 2005 was not
admissible to the jury. Thus, Davidson was not allowed to testify about
successful ballot initiatives in Hailey in 2007 and 2008.
In opening remarks, Marijuana Policy Project attorney Aaron Thompson
alleged that Davidson misled the organization when he applied for his
grant and underestimated resistance from local government to marijuana
"This case is about whether or not Mr. Davidson did what he said
he'd do," Thompson said. "I think that the evidence will show that he
did not do what he said he'd do."
Davidson's attorney, Charles Johnson, said the organization' s
revocation of the grant was in "bad faith and unreasonable. "
Davidson testified that his campaign in Blaine County was the
beginning of a statewide effort ultimately intended to lead to state
legislative action for reform of marijuana laws.
"I chose Blaine County because it was probably the most progressive
county in Idaho," Davidson said. "I thought that this community would be
an easier place to pass an initiative."
Davidson said he thought it would be easier than it turned out to be
to overcome legal obstacles imposed by city officials.
"It was my position that they were in gross violation of the law,"
he said. "I fully expected that if I brought this to the attention of
reasonable people they would recognize their mistake."
Hailey resident Robert Blakeley, who assisted Davidson with the
campaign, testified that he relocated to the Wood River Valley along
with Davidson after the grant was awarded by the Marijuana Policy
Project. He said withdrawal of the grant put the men in a financial
"It's kind of like getting a job in some faraway place and waking up
and finding your employer has left town," Blakeley said. "They wanted us
to just walk away and hitchhike out of town as if nothing had happened."
Blakeley said he and Davidson kept working on the campaign because
they were committed and were hopeful for eventual funding.
"We were forever hopeful that MPP would realize the error of their
ways," he said. "We accomplished everything that was in the agreement
and then some. I think we did a stellar job. I thought MPP would be
happy with what we did. But obviously they were not."
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress. com
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