Seattle Hempfest Fights For Its Life; Sues Seattle For 2011 Permit

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Photo: Seattle Hempfest
Hempfest always is a huge, happy hunk of humanity.

​With no confirmed venue and no confirmed dates, Seattle Hempfest, the world’s largest annual cannabis protestival, is fighting for its life.

Hempfest has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the City of Seattle in an effort to get a 2011 permit to produce the annual free speech rally, which aims to reform America’s cannabis prohibition.
The lawsuit calls the city’s unwillingness to delay planned construction, or to stage the work to accomodate Hempfest, “unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.”
The suit, which also includes Seattle’s mayor, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, director of Seattle Center, and chairperson of the Seattle Special Events Committee, asks the city to issue an appropriate permit for Seattle Hempfest in August 2011.
The lawsuit also seeks, if necessary, to stop Seattle from implementing the West Thomas Overpass project in such a way as to interfere with the use of Hempfest’s home, Myrtle Edwards  Park, in August 2011. Planned summer construction of the skybridge in Myrtle Edwards Park, which has been the location of Hempfest since 1995, has displaced the mammoth event which routinely draws more than 100,000 attendees annually.

Well aware of the painfully slow nature of the Seattle Special Events permit process, Hempfest submitted its special event application earlier than ever — in early November 2010 — hoping for a decision within the 60-day period set forth by law. Nevertheless, after months of negotiations, Hempfest organizers said they found themselves with neither a date nor a venue for the annual summer gathering, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
With just over six months to plan and produce the national cannabis reform movement’s flagship event, organizers said they feel as if they’re fighting for the very existence of the grassroots, all-volunteer effort.


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Photo: Vivian McPeak
Vivian McPeak, Seattle Hempfest: “We hope we can work with the city to find a workable resolution soon”

​”It is with heavy hearts that we take this action against the city that we love,” said Vivian McPeak, Hempfest’s executive director. “We thoroughly wanted to spend the months leading up to Hempfest’s 20th anniversary working on the best event ever. Without a date or a venue that is almost impossible.”
At the suggestion of the Special Events Committee, Hempfest contacted Seattle Center in October 2010 to see if that venue could be used for 2011. After a few months, Seattle Center representatives decided the center could not adequately host Hempfest until 2013 because of pre-existing reservations on some facilities as well as planned Seattle Center construction.
“We are very excited about the prospect of a new foot bridge into Myrtle Edwards Park, but after initially being told by the city that the project would not impact our event, we were suddenly informed we needed to hold the event in June or take Hempfest somewhere else,” McPeak said. “We’ve been, and we still are looking for alternatives to Myrtle Edwards Park.
“However, there are few venues that are adequate and after many months of meetings we are simply running out of time,” McPeak said. “We hope we can work with the city to find a workable resolution soon and get back to producing our event.”
“Hempfest is fighting for its life on its 20th anniversary,” McPeak said on his Facebook page. “Wanna help? Call the Mayor’s reception desk at (206) 684-4000 and ask the city to grant Hempfest’s permit. Please very very polite, it ain’t a simple thing running a city.”
The latest info about Hempfest 2011 can be found at Hempfest’s website at www.hempfest.org.
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