|Graphic: Seattle Hempfest
|Seattle Hempfest is coming to Myrtle Edwards Park on the waterfront, August 21 and 22. See you there!
If you’ve never been to Seattle Hempfest, the world’s largest “protestival” based around marijuana, you really owe it to yourself. While it’s hard to describe the vibe of being in a crowd of a couple hundred thousand like-minded people, those who have been there keep coming back again and again.
Hempfest, going strong since 1991, is one of the best and almost certainly the biggest marijuana rally in the world. This year’s edition hits Seattle on Saturday, August 21 and Sunday, August 22, and is dedicated to the memory of legendary hemp activist Jack Herer, whom the movement lost this year.
Free admission, good music, friendly people, and a beautiful setting have always been among the reasons to attend — and Myrtle Edwards Park on the lovely Seattle waterfront is guaranteed to be smelling really good once the party kicks in.
“The Seattle Hempfest is incredibly inspirational,” said Paul Stanford of this year’s primary sponsors The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation (THCF
”It is the largest event in the world for people who want hemp and cannabis legitimized and restored,” Stanford said. “If you want to have a good time and spend a day or two with a half million or so like-minded people, you should come to the Seattle Hempfest!”
|Photo: Michael Bachara
|Paul Stanford weighs out medical marijuana for THCF patients
“The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation is proud to be the main sponsor of the Seattle Hempfest because it is our mission to educate the general community about the benefits of the cannabis plant to our society,” said Michael Bachara of Hemp News
. “We look forward to what the future will bring.”
A Heady Hit of Hempfest History
The rally had its beginning when the Seattle Peace Heathens Community Action Group organized a peace vigil in 1990 to protest the Gulf War. The anti-war vigil, featuring workshops and teach-ins, lasted for six months.
Along the way, it attracted counterculture luminaries such as psychedelic pioneer Timothy Leary and beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The protesters sang, meditated and one day, invited a speaker from a marijuana law reform group.
That speaker never showed, but the seed had been planted, along with a realization of the power of public protest. As Vivian McPeak remembers it, co-organizer Gary Cooke turned to him one day and said, “Let’s put a pot rally together!”
The very first Hempfest, held in the spring of 1991 at Seattle’s Volunteer Park, was called the Washington Hemp Expo. It attracted about 500 people.
Attendance quadrupled to 2,000 the next year when the event took its current name, and 5,000 revelers showed up in 1993. By 1994, Hempfest had “maxed out” available space at Gas Works Park, so the event was moved to its current location, Myrtle Edwards Park, in 1995.
In 2001 Hempfest became a two-day event, and by 2003, it drew an estimated 200,000 people — a Woodstock-sized crowd — to the park, with estimated attendance since then hovering around that mark every year.
Pot arrests are minimal at Hempfest. The Seattle Police Department traditionally takes a low-key, tolerant attitude towards the extensive pot smoking which goes on at the event, with arrests averaging about 20 for the two days. In 2001, there was a grand total of one arrest.
Famously laid-back Seattle agrees with this approach. A month after the 2003 Hempfest, city voters overwhelmingly passed an initiative making the investigation, arrest and prosecution of marijuana offenses, when the drug is intended for adult personal use, the lowest law enforcement priority.
Of course, common-sense rules still apply, i.e., don’t taunt cops or blow smoke in their faces, or give them a reason to take interest in you by acting crazy or aggressive.