Seattle Hempfest: 85,000 per-day and no marijuana smoking tickets


4:20 at Seattle Hempfest 2010.

The 22nd Annual Seattle Hempfest was a major success over the weekend judging not only by the huge attendance of about 85,000 people Saturday and Sunday, but also by the reaction of the local police who refused to ticket attendees for publicly smoking cannabis.

While the event itself doesn’t necessarily differ from other marijuana rallies around the country in substance – glass pipe vendors and activist groups take up most of the booths and there’s an endless stream of speakers from the stage – what stands out about the event is the massive attendance. Basically: it’s a showing of just how large the cannabis community is not only in Washington, but around the country as supporters came from across the U.S. to attend.
Festival organizers say the cost to put everything on is around $800,000. Attendees were asked to make a $10 donation to help offset that high figure.
The theme of this year’s event was pushing the feds to reform federal marijuana law to catch up to the rest of the country that is increasingly more accepting of both medical marijuana and recreational cannabis. Festival director Vivian McPeak says that isn’t just a pipe dream.
“When we started Hempfest in 1991, many people thought we were jousting in the wind,” McPeak said. “What we’ve seen with the historic passage of I-502 and measure 62 in Colorado is that change is definitely in the wind.”
Other tout the event as an important place to talk about serious issues like expanding medical cannabis access. Washington resident Collin Berry says medical cannabis oil has helped him live a normal life since having his large intestine removed in 2008 due to ulcerative colitis.
“It’s always good to have a good time, but there’s people who are sick and who need it as medicine,” said Berry, lifting his shirt to reveal a gnarly scar on his abdomen. “That’s why I come to Hempfest. I don’t have a lot of money to donate, but I can bring my presence.”
Public use of marijuana is still illegal in Washington despite voters approving the legalization of limited amounts of cannabis, though you wouldn’t know it by the scene over the weekend (and any Friday and Saturday night in the city for that matter). People openly rolled up spliffs, torched their titanium and puffed on bowls all weekend long while Seattle Police strolled the crowd handing out bags of Doritos affixed with stickers explaining I-502.