This weekend on the Puget Sound waterfront, Myrtle Edwards Park plays host to America's largest marijuana law reform event in the 17th annual Seattle Hempfest. The festival, the purpose of which is to educate the public on the many uses and benefits of the cannabis plant, runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and promises nonstop entertainment.
Hempfest will include five stages featuring hundreds of speakers and music performers. Key speakers include PBS travel show host Rick Steves, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes Jack Herer, and NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) founder Keith Stroup.
The Hemposium Stage will offer attendees a chance to participate in panel discussions with many of the Hempfest speakers, which John Davis, the event's board chairman, said is an opportunity not to be missed.
"The panels will provide a chance to hear people that really know what they're talking about discuss the issues," Davis said, adding, "It's really a neat experience to get to talk directly to the speakers."
Among the issues on tap for this weekend, industrial uses of cannabis will be at the forefront, as this year's theme is "Industrial Hemp, and what it can do for America."
"There are a lot of issues that surround the big issue, which is the legal status of the plant, but we do like to bring up industrial usage," Davis said.
Although the issue of marijuana legalization is at the center of Hempfest, the festival's always-impressive band lineup is a major reason why it is expected to draw more than 150,000 people to the waterfront this weekend. Among the many bands performing on the event's five stages will be L.D.T. Mo-Thugs (featuring members from Grammy-winning Bone Thugs-n-Harmony), Vains of Jenna, and Herbivores. Because the event is free and run by a nonprofit organization, most of the acts are volunteering their time to support the cause.
Any event involving the legality of marijuana is sure to raise the question of police presence. However, Seattle Hempfest has a fairly clean bill on this issue and works closely with Seattle Police to ensure a safe festival environment. Davis said he has been especially impressed with the efforts put forth by police during past Hempfests.
"The police have really shown our group the meaning of protect and serve," Davis said.
Hempfest is free and largely put on by volunteers, with funding coming from a combination of vendor revenue, sponsorships, and donations. However, Davis estimates that the average donation at last year's event was somewhere around 15 cents. 15 cents! So with two days chock full of complimentary entertainment, enjoy some speeches and concerts and then open up that billfold and contribute a little more than a nickel and dime for a great cause.