Hippies and hempsters from high and low are coming together at the biggest hemp festival in the United States this weekend, August 21-22.
The Seattle Hempfest celebrates its 19th year by remembering the late, great Jack Herer, a moniker reminiscent of hemp events, whose absence is greatly felt throughout the cannabis community.
For over forty years, Jack Herer, the Emperor of Hemp, shouted from the rooftops, "Hemp will save the world!" He spoke to advocates and critics alike, filling in the gaps created by propaganda and misinformation. Jack was wholly committed to ending cannabis prohibition, and never ceased sharing the story of hemp to anyone that would listen. Jack left this world on April 15, 2010, but the quest for cannabis freedom lives on.
It is in his honor that the 2010 Seattle Hempfest is dedicated.
They say that the Seattle Hempfest started out as a humble little gathering of stoners who had a vision which attracted others with the same understandings. Now that small circle has grown into the largest cannabis policy reform event in the world.
It was the right thing, at the right time.
The wave of enlightenment that followed Jack Herer's groundbreaking publication, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes", was just beginning to build in the early nineties, the perfect time for a fresh emergence of marijuana activists to take the stage, taking on traditional politics.
The mission of Seattle's Hempfest is simple. They seek safe access to medical grade cannabis for qualified patients, the legal domestic production of industrial hemp, and alternatives to incarceration for otherwise responsible adults convicted of marijuana offenses.
Staffed completely by volunteers, Hempfest is free to attend; therefore most of the 56-plus acts that perform each year do so without compensation, as a contribution to the cause.
This year, Hempfest's entertainment committee received over 600 submissions from artists to perform, so the decisions were difficult.
A smattering of the musical line-up includes Tim Pate and Friends, The Rhythm Katz, Two Scoops Combo, Krista Herring, Sam Marshall Trio, Gravity, Reji Lefluer, Ravinwolf, Neal Storme, Herbivores, Big High, Thin C+Weed R The World (with members of Bone Thugs N Harmony), and Deadwood Revival.
Speakers include Ed Rosenthal, George Clayton Johnson, Jodie Emery, Elvy Musikka, Rick Cusick, Rick Steves, Rob Kampia, Paul Stanford, John Sajo, Madeline Martinez, Gatewood Gailbraith, Justin Kover, Todd McCormick, Russ Belville, and Dave Seber, just to name a few.
With 20 volunteers from the Seattle Peace Heathens Community Action Group, the very first "Washington Hemp Expo" (as the Seattle Hempfest was first known) was kicked off in 1991. There was a small attendance of only about 500 people in the Volunteer Park location, but it was the beginning of an event that has become a Northwest mainstay, and a leader in the nation.
Now boasting the largest gathering of speakers on Hemp and cannabis policy reform in the world, the Seattle Hempfest is always the third weekend in August, with world-class music on five stages, and hundreds of arts, crafts, food and political vendors, as well as a "Hemposium" replete with panel discussions and presentations, keynote speakers, displays and workshops.
Once led by a team of less than two dozen, it now takes a volunteer core staff of 140 working year-round and 50 crews (about 1,000 people) through the week of the event to "run the show" accommodating over 300,000 festival-goers, vendors, speakers and musicians at the largest pot rally on the planet.
So many people have found their way to this annual event in fact, that the organizers thought it best to extend it by one day.
Seattle Events, a Non-Profit Corporation asked for the third day, and though the City of Seattle was initially amicable to Hempfest's 3-day safety plan in the winter of 2009, budget cuts and broken bureaucracy led to a sudden shift in city policy. On June 22nd the Special Events Committee under the new Chair Joanne Orsuchi voted to deny the event an additional day.
“Our 2009 festival caused much concern for safety in our volunteer community," says Vivian McPeak, Executive Director of Seattle Hempfest. "We thought the city would be cooperative in our efforts to maintain public safety."
Hempfest appealed the decision. However, the City of Seattle responded by issuing an even more restrictive 2-day permit.
The producers of the event decided to resolve the issues since they were unlikely to win an administrative appeal in the City of Seattle and there was not enough remaining time to both fight a lawsuit and produce the event, given that it was scheduled for the very next month.
When asked what the plan is for 2011, McPeak said, “We are going to file our permit early and make sure that the City acts within the legally prescribed time-line to issue or deny our application. This will leave us plenty of time to deal with any unforeseen issues.”
Does this mean they are going to fight for a third day next year? “Yes, it does,” says McPeak.
In the meantime, the caravans, carpools, thumb trippers, and wagon trains of hempsters are on their way to the biggest hemp festival around.
Music, food, hemp education and enlightenment await an experience none will soon forget. And that's what the advocates for ending cannabis prohibition are hoping for, that each person who makes their way to the Seattle Hempfest will leave a better, brighter, more enthusiastic proponent of the hemp plant in all its uses.
Amid the smoke-filled air, Jack Herer's boisterous voice will drift through the crowds, between the lines of the speakers, within the notes of the music, as he continues championing the lofty, yet attainable goal of legalization... through the tens of thousands that have heard the message, loud and clear, and will carry on.
Where there is Hemp, there is Hope.
Hope to see you all in Seattle.