The nation's largest annual
marijuana protest/festival has come and gone, again drawing record crowds
and notably recording no arrests of any kind. The now venerable two-day
Seattle Hempfest drew as many as
150,000 devotees of the herb to waterfront Myrtle Edwards park for music
and political speeches blaring from multiple stages, not to mention a magical
mile of glass pipes and bongs, hempy wares of all sorts, and the tables
and booths of numerous political and social groups.
"The world's phattest protestival"
featured numerous marijuana reform movement luminaries as well as friendly
Washington state politicians, including Seattle city council member Nick
Licata, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, NORML executive director Allen St.
Pierre, and recent Supreme Court plaintiff Angel Raich.
In the Raich case, the court
upheld the federal government's right to prosecute medical marijuana patients
and providers even in states where it is legal. Since Washington
is one of those states, the issue resonated strongly in Seattle.
"This war is far from over. I'm not going to give up. I'm going
to keep fighting until there's no fight left," Raich told a large center-stage
With the slogan "Don't Just
Burn It, Learn It!" this year's Hempfest had an educational theme, with
the "Hemposium" featuring exhibits, panels, and presentations on industrial
hemp for food, fiber, and fuel, as well as presentations on medical marijuana
and the health benefits of cannabinoids. That's in addition to the
more than 90 speakers who addressed the multitudes over the two-day period.
Chris Mulligan of DRCNet
got a few moments on center stage, appearing right after headlining band
Fishbone -- using them in part to pitch attendees to work for the repeal
of a law
that takes financial aid away from would-be college students because of
drug convictions. "After leaving here
today, if 150,000 people start telling Congress we're sick of them holding
education funding hostage to drug war politics, things will change," Mulligan
told the crowd before leading them into a chant-and-response "No More"..."Drug
War." It was cheesy, Mulligan told DRCNet, "but you just have to
do that when there are 150,000 people in front of you."
DRCNet associate director
David Guard also addressed the crowds, although he didn't get center-stage.
"This is as much a festival as a protest," he said after the event.
"Maybe 10% of the people who come to this really care about the politics.
But when it's 150,000 people, that comes out to a lot of people we want
to reach." In addition to speaking, Guard reached the crowd through
the booth DRCNet shared with Flex
Your Rights, whose uniformed and sun-glassed Officer Friendly (Flex
Your Rights executive director Steve Silverman) was a constant draw for
In its 14th year, Seattle
Hempfest is a smooth-running, well-oiled, cannabis-fueled machine that
is the most public manifestation of Seattle's cutting edge position on
drug policy reform. And it happens without problems. "This
is a successful social experiment in legalizing marijuana, and it works,"
said Mulligan. "All those people, and there were no arrests, no fights,
not one crime worth busting," he marveled.
It's not that pot-smoking
wasn't present or that the Seattle police weren't present. They were
on-scene, but appropriately laid-back. "Marijuana enforcement is
one of our lowest priorities," said Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb.
"Keeping the public safe is our No. 1 mission at Hempfest," he told the
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