August 2012 file photo shows Hempfest attendee smoking marijuana from glass bong
A few things will be different at this year's Hempfest,
the 22-year-old summer "protestival" on Seattle's waterfront where tens
of thousands of revelers gather to use dope openly, listen to music and
gaze at the Olympic Mountains in the distance.
of pot smoke might smell a little more like victory, after Washington
and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana use by adults
over 21. Having won at the state level, speakers will concentrate on
the reform of federal marijuana laws.
Oh, and the Seattle
police -- who have long turned a lenient eye on Hempfest tokers --
don't plan to be writing tickets or making arrests. They'll be busy
handing out Doritos.
"I think it's going to be a lot of
fun," said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, department spokesman and
junk-food-dispenser-in-chief. "It's meant to be ironic. The idea of
police passing out Doritos at a festival that celebrates pot, we're
sure, is going to generate some buzz."
The idea isn't
just to satisfy some munchies. The department has affixed labels to
1,000 bags of Doritos urging people to check out a question-and-answer post on its website,
titled "Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle." It
explains some of the nuances of Washington's law: that adults can
possess up to an ounce but can't sell it or give it away, that driving
under the influence of pot is illegal, and that -- festivals aside --
public use is illegal.
Organizers are expecting as many
as 85,000 people each day of the three-day event, which begins Friday
and is the first Hempfest since voters passed Initiative 502 last fall.
vote legalized possession of marijuana and set up a system of
state-licensed marijuana growers, processors and stores to sell taxed
and regulated weed. Officials are still writing rules for the new pot
industry, with sales scheduled to begin next year.
executive director Vivian McPeak said that despite the state-level
legalization, work remains as long as pot is illegal under federal law.
The event is free, but McPeak is asking attendees to contribute $10 to
offset the $800,000 cost of Hempfest so it can continue next year.
going to be the most interesting Hempfest we've ever had because it's
going to be part victory celebration," McPeak said. "That said, we feel
it's very important to remind everyone that as long as it's still a
Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, it's not legal
anywhere. The job's not done yet."
The event will feature
117 musical acts on six stages and more than 100 speakers, not to
mention 400 vendors offering informational pamphlets, colorful glass
bongs, food and art.
McPeak said that, to encourage the
responsible use of pot, Hempfest this year will be handing out cards
with marijuana "gut checks" prepared by Roger Roffman, a University of
Washington School of Social Work professor and marijuana dependence
expert. The cards note that while marijuana is used safely by many
people, it can cause short-term memory loss, affect your ability to
drive and cause dependence.
"We hope people will take it more seriously coming from us than from a traditional messenger," McPeak said.
although police won't be ticketing people for smoking in public,
officers will be ensuring public safety and keeping a close eye out for
intoxicated drivers leaving the event, Whitcomb said.
Laoruangroch is hoping to use Hempfest to promote his fledgling
business, Prohibition Brands, by rolling a joint of at least 2 pounds --
an effort Hempfest's organizers have frowned upon as not compliant with
Initiative 502. Prohibition Brands hopes to obtain a marijuana
processing license under the state's new law.
"This is a
big moment for me," he said. As a pot smoker, "You kind of get an image
that's cast upon you in a negative way. For a lot of people, this is a
you-don't-have-to-hide-in-the-shadows-any-more kind of thing. You can be
out in the open."