Seattle city council member Nick Licata speaking at the 2009 Seattle Hempfest
|Location(s)||Myrtle Edwards Park, Seattle, Washington, U.S.|
|Inaugurated||August 1, 1991|
|Previous event||August 17, 2018– August 19, 2018|
|Next event||August 16, 2019– August 18, 2019|
|Organised by||Seattle Events, a Non-Profit Corporation|
Seattle Peace Heathens Community Action Group
Seattle Hempfest is an annual event in Seattle, Washington, the world's largest annual gathering advocating decriminalization of marijuana. Vivian McPeak serves as the organization's executive director. Founded in 1991 as the Washington Hemp Expo, a self-described "humble gathering of stoners" attended by only 500 people, and renamed the following year as Hempfest, it has grown into a three-day annual political rally, concert, and arts and crafts fair with attendance typically over 100,000. Speakers have included Seattle city council member Nick Licata, actor/activist Woody Harrelson (2004), travel writer and TV host Rick Steves (2007), (2010), 2012 Green Party speaker Jill Stein, Dallas Cowboys center Mark Stepnoski (2003), and former chief of the Seattle Police Department Norm Stamper (2006). Hempfest has also in recent years attracted such well-known performers as Fishbone (2002), The Kottonmouth Kings (2004), Rehab (2006), and Pato Banton (2007) to its five stages spread throughout Myrtle Edwards Park and Elliott Bay Park, on Seattle's waterfront.
Early Hempfests "featured blatant marijuana smoking"; 60 people were cited for illegal marijuana use at the 1997 Hempfest, and about 20 were arrested the following year. Eventually Hempfest and the police reached a modus vivendi: there was only one arrest in 2001. About this time, the director was Dominic Holden, who was also campaign manager of an organization trying to make cannabis the city of Seattle's lowest law enforcement priority through a voter initiative, I-75. The political context surrounding marijuana in Seattle and Washington has changed considerably over the years. Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998. In 2003, Seattle passed I-75.
The 2008 Seattle Hempfest, which took place August 16–17, set a new record for attendance, topping 310,000 people. The volunteers of Seattle Hempfest were awarded the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) award for "Outstanding Cannabis Advocate of the Year Award" on October 17, 2008 at the National NORML Conference for their efforts.
2011 Hempfest speakers included numerous elected officials, among them Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, City Attorney Pete Holmes, a return by Councilman Licata, and Washington State Representatives Mary Lou Dickerson and Roger Goodman.
2013 brought legalization to Washington State and Seattle Hempfest featured performances by Everlast, Hed PE and DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill. As of 2013, the festival has an annual budget of approximately $700,000.
Other Northwest cities with their own festivals called "Hempfest" include Olympia, Washington (Olympia Hempfest, held on the grounds of the 1905–1928 capitol building), Eugene and Salem, Oregon (Emerald Empire Hempfest and Salem Hempfest), Moscow, Idaho (Moscow Hemp Fest) and Boise, Idaho (Boise Hempfest), Missoula, Montana (Missoula Hempfest). The Freedom Rally in Boston is also called Hempfest. and since 2015 there has been an Alaska HEMPFEST that has taken place in Kenny Lake in 2015, Meadow Lakes in 2016 and again in 2018.
- According to the 2007 Seattle Hempfest program, p. 22, "As far as we can tell, it is [the biggest pot rally anywhere], and it dwarfs its closest counterpart."
- According to the 2007 Seattle Hempfest program, p. 3, they advocate "the decriminalization of marijuana for responsible adults, legal access to medical marijuana…, and legal domestic hemp production."
- McNerthney 2007
- "Seattle Hempfest History: 1991-present", Seattle Hempfest. Accessed 23 August 2007.
- 2007 Seattle Hempfest program, p. 22.
- 2007 Seattle Hempfest program, p. 6. An essay by Steves appears on p.16–17 of the 2007 program.
- Hempfest 2003 achieves Pot Peace!, on official Seattle Hempfest site. Accessed online 24 August 2007.
- Mike Cust, Seattle Hempfest rocks hard!, Cannabis Culture, February 24, 2003. Accessed online 24 August 2007.
- Philip Dawdy, 2004 Hempfest Highlights, Seattle Weekly, August 18, 2004. Accessed online 24 August 2007.
- Seattle Hempfest History on Hempfest official site. Accessed online 24 August 2007.
- Monica Guzman, News update: Former police chief Stamper backs out of Hempfest, August 15, 2007 on the official blog of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Accessed online 24 August 2007.
- Marijuana policy reform is emphasis at Hempfest, Seattle Times, August 17, 2006. Accessed online 24 August 2007.
- Vendor Policies, on official Seattle Hempfest site. Accessed online 24 August 2007.
- Neil Modie (August 18, 2002), "Hempfest pushes fall ballot measure", Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- Paul Armentano (January 19, 2010). "I-75: City Of Seattle Will No Longer Prosecute Marijuana Possession Offenses". NORML blog. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
- "History of NORML Awards (1998-2018) - NORML - Working to Reform Marijuana Laws". norml.org. Retrieved 2019-05-23.
- Jim Brunner, Kucinich joins local pro-pot pols at Seattle Hempfest, Seattle Times, 20 August 2011. Retrieved online 21 August 2011.
- 2013 Seattle Hempfest program, p. 23.
- Dahl, Kieran. "How a decades-old hippie soap brand became a touchstone of wellness culture". Vox, May 8, 2019.
- Andy Hobbs (July 25, 2015), "Olympia Hempfest offers high times all weekend at Heritage Park", The Olympian, Olympia, Washington
- Jack Moran (May 5, 2016), "HempFest organizer takes city of Eugene to court for denying park permit", The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon
- Carlee Wright (August 25, 2015), "Salem Hempfest celebrates varied uses of cannabis plant", Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon
- "17th Annual Moscow Hemp Fest", Spokane7.com, Spokane, Washington: The Spokesman-Review, April 20, 2013
- Lisa Miller (December 24, 2015), "20 U.S. cities you must visit in your 20s", Huffington Post
- Martha Schick (September 11, 2014), "Hempfest: No smoking allowed", Berkeley Beacon
- Alaska HEMPFEST:Alaska’s best free speech cannabis event is back for their 3rd year!
- Seattle Hempfest History: 1991-Present, Seattle Hempfest. Accessed 23 August 2007.
- Casey McNerthney, Where there's smoke, there's Hempfest, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 18, 2007. Accessed online 23 August 2007.
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