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Marijuana lawsuit dismissed


Tribune-Herald staff writer

A judge on Thursday granted a motion to dismiss all defendants from a civil lawsuit claiming the county has intentionally failed to abide by the “lowest law enforcement priority” of adult personal use of marijuana, in effect dismissing the case.

The lawsuit had been brought last year by marijuana activists Mike Ruggles, Nancy Harris, Kenneth Miyamoto-Slaughter, David and Wendy Tatum, George “Greywolf” Klare, Barbara Jean Lang and Robert S. Murray. The defendants were: Mayor Billy Kenoi; Police Chief Harry Kubojiri; County Prosecutor Charlene Iboshi; Deputy Prosecutor Mitch Roth; former Prosecutor Jay Kimura; Councilmembers Dominic Yagong, Donald Ikeda, J Yoshimoto, Dennis “Fresh” Onishi, Fred Blas, Brittany Smart, Brenda Ford, Angel Pilago and Pete Hoffmann; and former Councilmembers Kelly Greenwell, Guy Enriques and Emily Naeole.

The defendants were dropped without comment from the suit by Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura, who last November ruled the initiative passed by county voters in 2008 was “unenforceable.” The written ruling stated “a municipal ordinance may be preempted … if the municipal ordinance conflicts with state law.” State law makes possession of marijuana illegal except for certified medical marijuana patients who comply with the provisions of the state’s medical marijuana law.

County Deputy Corporation Council Michael Udovic called the judge’s dismissal of all defendants in the case “appropriate.”

“I think the law’s pretty clear,” he said. “State law prevails over county law and you can’t change state law by enacting a county ordinance.”

Ruggles said he plans to appeal the dismissal to the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals.

“We want it to go to the the appellate court because we believe we have excellent reasons to rule in our favor. And we can see why the lower court ruled against us, but in reality, I think they’re on thin ice,” he said. “… We live in a home rule state. … You have Nevada, which has legalized gambling, prostitution in some counties. … There are over 3,000 counties in the United States and they all use home rule. That’s a part of democracy. And even in our county, they passed a (resolution stating) no GMO (taro), and they follow that.”

County ordinance 08-181 amended the county code to make adult personal use of pot the county’s lowest law enforcement priority. The so-called “Peaceful Sky” ordinance, which does not legalize marijuana, set personal use limits at 24 plants and 24 ounces of usable marijuana. It also prohibits the county from accepting federal money to eradicate the drug on the Big Island.

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