SEATTLE — Day one of Hempfest 2013 is in full swing along Elliott Bay in Seattle.
Organizers are treating this year as a sort of victory lap. For the first time in more than two decades, Hempfest attendees are legally allowed to carry up to an ounce of pot.
Every year thousands of hemp-heads descend on Myrtle Edwards Park. If you’re not sure where that is, just look for the smoke.
More than a quarter-million people are expected at the three-day event called the largest “protestival” in the country.
Executive director Vivian McPeak says the next fight is focused on ending the federal prohibition of pot.
“It’s very surreal to be at this point,” said McPeak. “It’s beautiful to see that America always gets it right. We make mistakes, we stumble, but America always seems to get things right and bring equality and social justice to the forefront – i don’t think it’s going to be any different with this issue.”
Then there’s Don Skakie, who says Washington state’s marijuana legalization measure, I-502, doesn’t go far enough.
“If I can buy it in a store, I should be able to grow it and give it away,” said Skakie. “The problem is it doesn’t allow for someone to provide for themselves. And the lack of that is going to create an economic hardship for a lot of people.”
Seattle police are out in force – reminding Hempfest-ers that smoking dope in public is still illegal.
And while there’s a lot of smoking going on out here, there’s not going to be any pot for sale.
“This is not a free for all, we’re in a public park,” said McPeak. “There can’t be any distribution of any kind; we’re going to be enforcing that.”
The festival cost $800,000 to put on this year and organizers count on donations but they admit folks aren’t paying their fair share.
As for the famous Seattle Police Department’s Doritos giveaway, that doesn’t start until 10 a.m. Saturday. So the smokers will just have to buy their own munchies until then.
Hempfest wraps up at 8 p.m. Sunday.