Summer in Seattle

Smell That? It’s Hempfest

More than 100,000 turn out for the annual "protestival" in support of all things pot.

By Douglas Bair August 23, 2010


Things got crazy before we even got into Hempfest. Hundreds of attendees tore down the yellow caution tape and jaysprinted across Elliott Avenue to cut the line that snaked up and down the block—like people were waiting for a pot-infused iPhone. But Seattle PD had more than misdemeanors to worry about; they had so many officers on patrol, they had to set up a grilling station to keep the team fed.

This past weekend, more than 100,000 marijuana enthusiasts flooded Myrtle Edwards Park, Elliott Bay Park, and Olympic Sculpture Park for the annual "protestival," one of the largest of its kind, with brownies, bowls, and strollers (parts of the line could have been mistaken for a ride at Disneyland) in hand.

The crowd has grown from a paltry 500 attendees to about 150,000 since the inaugural Washington Hemp Expo back in 1991. So what’s the draw? For one thing, 100+ food vendors scattered across the three parks make this munchie heaven. Not to mention the booths dedicated to "glass art," hemp clothing, and the latest in smoking paraphernalia. Of course, people also turn out to rally for their cause—drug policy reform, legalizing marijuana in state—and to hear speakers like travel book author and trailblazer (pun intended) Rick Steves, SAFER Choice’s Mason Tvert, and Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Although the most recent push to legalize pot in Washington didn’t garner enough signatures to make the November ballot, many activists saw the event as the launch for the 2011 campaign. One problem: Hempfest was $50,000 in debt after last year’s outing, so the donation-supported event needed to bring in a lot of cash, or call this its final toke. No word yet on whether they recouped costs.

Check out the video below for an interview with hemp activist and five-year Hempfest attendee Daneen Silva from Allyn, Wa. Video by Mary Pritchard.

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