Once a year for three days during the past 23 years (the first two had some arrests) it has been understood in Seattle that arresting a pothead is not, and should not be, their concern. That is what true legalization is about: priorities and common sense.
If you ask a Washingtonian about Seattle Hempfest, you’ll get one of 3 reactions; 1) Love for the three-day event dedicated to marijuana/cannabis; 2) Hate (either because they still believe the propaganda being distributed or because they’re a medical marijuana advocate and believe the people of Hempfest did not do enough to fight I-502) or 3) What is Hempfest? (Because, yes, you can live in a state with a 200,000 stoner festival and still not know about it).
I’m with the first group of people—the ones who love Seattle Hempfest and what it represents. More than ever, this festival, this protestival is important. The 25-year-old social experiment has proven that people of all ages, sizes, and socioeconomic backgrounds can gather, smoke pot freely and not cause a negative social impact. Hempfest has proven, and stands by the fact, that cannabis/marijuana is not the drug that some people think it is and that enforcement against it was a judicial waste that should not ever have been a police priority.
Hempfest demonstrates that people who prefer cannabis are not a threat but, instead, are the friendly neighbor. Here, and only here, in this two- mile stretch during those three days, do I truly feel a sense of legalization, a sense of freedom. Last year as I was walking to my volunteer position and smoking a bowl, I saw a cop on a bike out of the corner of my eye and tensed up, instinctively wanting to hide my pot. He rolled by and said, “Good morning; just like your morning coffee, huh?” That, my friends, was truly a surreal moment in my life.
When you get a taste of true freedom—the ability to have a moment where your only care is the sun on your face, the smell of the ocean, and the bowl in front of you—it’s a special thing. This is especially true when you’ve traveled the great United States seen reefer madness first hand—when the same amount of weed you openly purchase and transport home can lock you away for years in a reefer madness state. This is what Hempfest brings in Seattle: the sense of complete freedom.
2016 Seattle Hempfest. Image: Jeremiah Hughes
One of the most incredible things I witnessed during Hempfest 2016 was a group of guys stopping the police while they were making their rounds and asking the officers to have a picture taken with them. One of these gentleman then proceeded to take a bong rip during the picture. This says more than a thousand words; it was poetry in motion
Technically, that man should have gotten a $20 ticket for openly smoking pot; but just like at an Oktoberfest where people openly walk around with a container of alcohol, people do the same at Hempfest with pot.
All day I was passed by cops on bikes while puffing a bowl. I didn’t get harassed and I was not asked to put it out. Throughout my time there for three days, I smoked more cannabis than I ever had before and not once did I feel threatened by the police. In fact, when they rode by I clapped and applauded because they were doing their job. At one point, a woman at my booth lost her phone and thought it was stolen, so we called the cops. When they showed up they were nothing but respectful and helpful. That’s what Hempfest is about: showing the world that police and potheads can get along.
We are in the age of disinformation, but Seattle Hempfest has shown us a 23-year-old truth: The drug war is the wrong war; the drug war is a war on people, not drugs.
Right now, people in law enforcement and in the judicial system not only have to justify their present position, but they also have to justify their past actions—the actions of ruining other American lives, those of their friends and neighbors. Right now someone is trying to convince you that “they are just doing their job” or that “that person was breaking the law;” but so was sitting in the front of the bus. History and common sense have proven that to be one of the black (pun intended) eyes of American history.
Seattle Hempfest sends a message that we shouldn’t have to fear marijuana consumption; it shows the rest of the America that there are places where we can light up without looking around like we’re gonna tell a racist joke; it shows that it isn’t the police who are bad, it is the law.