There's really nothing else like being part of a crowd of a couple hundred thousand like-minded people. That's why those who have been to Hempfest keep going year after year, and telling all their friends to come along. From August 17-19, Myrtle Edwards Park will host only the second Hempfest to run three days after years of existing as a two-day event. Seattle's Hempfest isn't just the biggest pro-cannabis protestival in the world. It's also the best, and for two decades now, this pot party (I know I'm not supposed to call it that, but really . . . ) has not only helped raise consciousness about marijuana, but has given it a friendly face. Out-of-town visitors go back home with a great impression of what a friendly city we have, not to mention the huge cash infusion the event means to THC-attle every year.
This year's theme is "Safer Than Alcohol," since, at 21, the festival is precisely the age at which adults are allowed to drink. Hempfest may be the largest event in the world for people who want hemp and cannabis legalized, but it results in surprisingly few arrests every year.
It doesn't hurt any that the voters of Seattle instructed their police department a few years ago to make marijuana their lowest enforcement priority; the SPD traditionally takes a low-key, tolerant attitude towards the extensive pot-smoking that goes on at the event. In 2001, for instance, there was a grand total of one arrest.
Besides hosting many bands over the course of the weekend, Hempfest features a plethora of speakers and discussion panels including, well, me. But don't let that discourage you; there's also cannabis comedian Ngaio Bealum, Harborside Health Center's Steve DeAngelo, state Rep. Roger Goodman, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Guru of Ganja Ed Rosenthal, travel show host Rick Steves, and Hempfest director Vivian McPeak, along with a host of others.
At any given time at Hempfest, you'll have the option of no fewer than three main stages, greatly increasing the chances that a band or speaker you really want to see will be there for you.
Keep in mind that all scheduled times (noon-8 Friday, 10-8 Saturday and Sunday) at Hempfest are approximate, as stage schedules tend to be revised in the heat of the high moment. You should show up early, and remember that you'll be negotiating a huge crowd.
Steve Elliott edits Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media's site of cannabis news, views, rumor, and humor.