For three days in August, hundreds of thousands of people will descend on Myrtle Edwards and Centennial Parks on Seattle’s waterfront for the 22nd annual Hempfest, traditionally the largest annual gathering of pro-cannabis supporters in the world. But following last year’s historic passage of Initiative 502, which legalized the adult possession of marijuana in the state, this year’s Hempfest promises one thing that the previous 21 did not: a victory celebration.
SHF poster with logos FINAL2013
What started out as a “humble gathering of stoners” in 1991, conceived during a peace vigil in opposition of the first Gulf War and attracting a crowd of about 500 people, has grown to a world-renowned 3 day “protestival” celebrating human rights, equality, freedom, and of course, cannabis.
Spanning 1.3 miles, two public parks, six stages, and more than 300 vendors and being staffed by over 1,000 volunteers, Hempfest isn’t just the largest annual pro-pot rally in the world — it is also one of the largest special events in the State of Washington.
With a Special Events permit requiring a $1 million insurance policy, emergency evacuation plans, and safety and security personnel, Hempfest is not a “pot party in the park”; it is a bona-fide political rally whose organizers work closely with city officials to ensure a successful — and peaceful — annual tradition.
Past performers have included well known bands such as Potluck, the Kottonmouth Kings, Fishbone, Rehab, and countless others, with notable speakers including Jack Herer, Woody Harrelson, Rick Steves, and many local and national political figures and marijuana reform activists addressing the crowds.
This year’s event will have a distinct theme for each day of the weekend. On Friday, the festival will focus on No Federal Schedule (the End Game), followed by Harm Reduction, Youth Use & Dependency on Saturday and Voter Power: Your Vote and Democracy on Sunday.
Hundreds of arts, crafts, and political vendors stretch the expanse of both parks, and the event features a “Hemposium” replete with panel discussions and presentations, displays, and workshops.
Munchies, of course, are available from a wide variety of food vendors, but don’t expect to find any cannabis for sale; despite Washington’s relaxed marijuana laws, it is an enhanced felony to sell cannabis, cannabis food, or other drugs in a city park, with all penalties — including fines and jail time — doubled.
“We love cannabis and we’d love nothing more than to see a huge bud market with the dankest of the dank every where, but alas, we can’t,” the Hempfest website proclaims.
The 2013 rendition of Seattle Hempfest, which spans August 16-18, will not only be a victory celebration, but it will also be the most expensive Hempfest in history, costing about $800,000 to produce.
Despite the rising costs, which just a few years ago were estimated at $250,000, Hempfest remains a free event for attendees of all ages, and remains without corporate sponsorship. Those who wish to attend the event will be asked for a kind donation as they enter the park.
“We are asking for $10 per attendee for the three days of more freedom than you will get in Amsterdam or anywhere else in the would we know of,” says Hempfest Exeuctive Director Vivian McPeak. In previous years, a $4.20 donation was suggested.
McPeak also points out a few important changes to this year’s event.
Most notably, handheld canister propellant torches and butane torches are no longer allowed in the park under a new city law aimed at preventing wildfires. While this may put a damper on dabbing, ”we need to warn the community that those devices will be absolutely restricted by Seattle law,” McPeak says.
With the completion of the Stephen Colbert Bridge to Somewhere, accessible at 3rd Ave West and West Harrison Streets, a third entrance to Hempfest will now be open, which organizers hope will reduce some of the crowding and long lines that can sometimes form at the North and South entrances.
Because Hempfest is a free speech event in a public park, the passage of Initiative 502 will not change the event’s entrance policy to be 21+. Hempfest remains open to all ages, but organizers remind minors wishing to attend the event to discuss the matter with a parent or guardian.
In addition, Hempfest organizers would like to remind the cannabis community of the following:
Alcohol, narcotics and weapons are strictly prohibited
Dogs, with the exception of working service animals, are not allowed
Unauthorized vending is prohibited
Cannabis sales of any kind, including edible treats or medical marijuana sales, are not only prohibited at the event, but they also remain an enhanced felony in the park
No fireworks, spray paint, or handheld torches are allowed in the park
Genital nudity is prohibited at Hempfest
Overnight camping is prohibited at Hempfest, but there are several campgrounds within a short drive of Downtown Seattle
Bicycle riders must dismount and walk their bikes at all times for public safety
Please help keep the parks clean
Additional information for attendees, including driving directions, parking information, and local hotel listings can be found here.
Hempfest is produced by a large team of over 1,000 volunteers, and it doesn’t take over Myrtle Edwards Park overnight. With four days of set-up prior to the event, and three days of tear-down and park restoration after the event, volunteers are always welcome — and needed. Prospective volunteers can visit Hempfest.org to find out more information and register online for over 80 volunteer crews that make the event a reality.
For those who can not attend Hempfest, all six stages will be streamed live online.
For more information, visit hempfest.org.
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