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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

City Refuses to Issue Hempfest Permit

Posted by on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 4:33 PM

A committee tasked with issuing permits to events on public property has denied permission to Hempfest, the annual marijuana-legalization festival held on the downtown waterfront, for a three-day event this year. The biggest pot event in the world, Hempfest serves as a national assembly point for advocates who want to change drug laws.

In years past, as a two-day event, Hempfest exceeded capacity in the venue—the adjoining Myrtle Edwards Park and Elliott Bay Park—and police have closed the gates in some instances. And each year the mile-long stretch can feel so crowded it's downright claustrophobic.

So this year, organizers applied for a third day of festival (Friday, August 20) in addition to the traditional two weekend days to make sure everyone who wanted to attend could make it.

"We believe that not only do we require a third day for public safety, due to the throngs of people who attend Hempfest," says the event's executive director, Vivian McPeak, "we can't afford for someone to not have access to our free-speech message, and essentially that is what the city is suggesting."

Hempfest is filing an administrative appeal tomorrow. If the event doesn't win that appeal, the group will consider its options for going to court. The last time Hempfest sued the city for delaying the permit, the city capitulated within a couple days.

The city is in a miserable position on this issue. The permit application was filed in March and the city is supposed to act within 60 days. It's been more than 90 days already. "The city dragged its feet until just now," McPeak says.

"I knew this was coming but i don't know why," says Joelle Hammerstad, a spokeswoman for the parks department (which oversees permits). She says she will look into the reason that the city rejected the application, but she says, "Every event has a beginning and end. If you can't get to the park on the day of the event, then you missed the event. I don't think you are denying people free speech."

Event organizers says Hempfest needs either more time or more space to safely get all the people who want to assemble—who have a right to assemble—into the venue. There's no additional space available (rules at the larger Seattle Center make that venue cost prohibitive and Hempfest doesn't believe there's any additional usable space there anyway). And now the city is saying Hempfest can't get more time to let people attend on the waterfront.

According to McPeak, city officials said "it can't afford a third day of Hempfest." But, McPeak responds, "We are sensitive to the city's budgetary issues, but freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are not the place to tighten the belt."


Comments (32) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Next time you have Joelle at Parks on the phone, pull the mayor out of your pocket and put him on the line with her, dude! He'll take care of this in a heartbeat!
Posted by gloomy gus on June 23, 2010 at 4:40 PM · Report this
P.S. that was just an easy mean joke. I know he wouldn't fit in anybody's pocket. A post-nuclear mutant kangaroo pouch, maybe.
Posted by gloomy gus on June 23, 2010 at 4:42 PM · Report this
Josh Bomb 3
it's nice to see stoners getting away from the stoner stereotype and actually DOING SOMETHING!

Posted by Josh Bomb on June 23, 2010 at 4:43 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 4
Um . . . I saw the photos you posted of last year's Hempfest. It sure didn't look like "free speech" had much of anything to do with it.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on June 23, 2010 at 4:52 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 5
No prob.

We can always march on city hall and shut down the entire city for the weekend if need be.
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 23, 2010 at 4:56 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 6
and @1 is right, she likes to pull this shite ... call in the diplomats.
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 23, 2010 at 4:57 PM · Report this
OuterCow 7
@4: Well I don't remember how many panel discussions had photo spreads in slog, but I can tell ya the free speech aspect was certainly a centerpiece of the event for my friends and I.
Posted by OuterCow on June 23, 2010 at 5:04 PM · Report this
Rotten666 8
Freedom of speech my ass. I went a few years ago and all I saw was a bunch of dirtbag teens from Kent smoking spliffs and some poly-sci 101 jargoneering.
Posted by Rotten666 on June 23, 2010 at 5:05 PM · Report this
Jubilation T. Cornball 9
@8 LOL Brilliant
Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball on June 23, 2010 at 5:11 PM · Report this
elenchos 10
Poor stoners. Bless their hearts.
Posted by elenchos on June 23, 2010 at 5:27 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 11
It's just the Man, man. He's trying to bring us down, man.


Oh, was I supposed to turn in that paper thingie so the Man could tell me I can do what I'm already doing, man? That Ey-nit-i-a-tive.
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 23, 2010 at 5:30 PM · Report this
Had the city acted in a timely fashion and voiced their concerns within the time frame stipulated by law none of this would be happening. It is the cities laze fair attitude that has pushed Hempfest into a corner and forced them to sue. How can you plan an event when the city sits on its laurels and does not issue your permit in the first place? Another great example of our government moving at its usual snail pace and costing us all money. Hempfest is a huge event. Think of all the tax revenue that we’ll be missing by NOT allowing a third day? How many hotels get filled? Parking lots maxed? Restaurants with lines out the doors? Not to mention over 400 vendors in the park, selling, charging sales tax, filling the city coffers!
Posted by kirklandSharon on June 23, 2010 at 5:39 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 13
This situation absolutely requires that a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part!
Posted by Urgutha Forka on June 23, 2010 at 5:47 PM · Report this

1. Hempfest has outgrown Myrtle Edwards. The organizers should have realized this years ago and moved to another venue.

2. Another thing they should have realized years ago is what a waste of time hempfest is. It is the state pep rally for high school drop outs.
Posted by Zander on June 23, 2010 at 6:42 PM · Report this
tournant 15
@8--There's definitely that contingent at Hempfest, enough so that I don't attend it. But more importantly Hempfest is a beacon for reasonable drug law reform and for the local activists working to get these changes made deserve to have this traditional gathering happen. I don't see the city having any good reason to deny the permit, especially if the organizers are working on solving the crowding problem.
Posted by tournant on June 23, 2010 at 6:50 PM · Report this
Timmytee 16
@3: You mean like all getting together in one place to get stoned?
Posted by Timmytee on June 23, 2010 at 7:01 PM · Report this

Name another park within the City limits that would hold that many people? Seattle Center is about the only one, and that option appears to have already been taken off the table.

And if what you say in your second paragraph were actually true, WA would be only slightly ahead of Mississippi in terms of our high school drop out rate. In other words: hyperbole is a fine thing, but easily debunked.
Posted by COMTE on June 23, 2010 at 7:21 PM · Report this
vooodooo84 18
@4 Conduct can equal speech for purposes of constitutional protection. And political speech is more protected
Posted by vooodooo84 on June 23, 2010 at 7:47 PM · Report this
Banna 19
just move it to greek row at UW, and it'll be slightly smaller and slightly less unruly than a typical homecoming weekend.
Posted by Banna on June 23, 2010 at 8:11 PM · Report this
Hempfester-Jack'sFriend 20
troll forum... do not post. Freedom Of Speech is everywhere at the Hempfest and if you don't hear it you're not aware in the first place and you need to pay more attention to whats going on. Smoking Pot is just one aspect of those trying to express their freedoms, but those who are speaking to all those smoking are talking about how to stand together and change the laws -- are you too ill-minded to understand that? Look around instead of just walking through and listen to what the people on the stage are saying and you may "get it"... trolls on every forum its sad.
Posted by Hempfester-Jack'sFriend on June 23, 2010 at 8:36 PM · Report this
Ladies and gentlemen, this year's Hempfest keynote speaker, @20.
Posted by gloomy gus on June 23, 2010 at 8:44 PM · Report this
venomlash 22
@20: Riveting narrative, old bean!
Posted by venomlash on June 23, 2010 at 8:49 PM · Report this
no one at Hempfest is paid. Lazy Stoner does not apply to the over 1,000 volunteers who annualy make this event happen. It's odd to me that so many stones are being thrown at the stoners who are trying to do things to help society instead of sitting in a haze and doing nothing - like the majority of non cannabis users does. Why the bitterness? I'm truly curious. I personally just finished cancer treatment. Cannabis was a god send to me. i cannot express how greatly it helped me through treatment. It's like a light switch turning on and off the sickness that goes w/chemo and raditaiotn. hence my hipness to cannabis and yes, Hempfest. I view them a helping make the world more aware of the benefits that cannabis truly has.
Posted by kirklandSharon on June 23, 2010 at 10:17 PM · Report this
DOUG. 24
Hempfest fucks up the bike path.
Posted by DOUG. on June 23, 2010 at 10:44 PM · Report this
If there's not enough space, there's not enough space! Either scale down the event or find a better venue. Here's a notion: why not have it in a rural location? Or a large park out in the county?
Posted by thursdaydynamo on June 24, 2010 at 12:46 AM · Report this
How many people did they used to pack into Myrtle Edwards for the 4th of July fireworks - 100,000?

The capacity argument is bullshit - the City forced HF into Myrtle Edwards years ago because they wanted to isolate the event and its participants (Gas Works was a better location, in my opinion).

HF meets the standard for a free speech event (whether or not you like the "stoner hippie" content is irrelevant) and the City deserves to and will lose in court on this.

Posted by Mr. X on June 24, 2010 at 3:33 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 27
Hempfest disgusts me.

Here we are, jailing a girl for jaywalking, and then letting mostly white middle class clowns take illegal drugs in a public park.

If you want to change the law, great, do so.

If you want to violate the law, then go to jail.

Let's see some fairness in the City of Seattle!
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on June 24, 2010 at 8:55 AM · Report this
Fenrox 28
Ahh, the most selfish people, Drug addicts.

Posted by Fenrox on June 24, 2010 at 9:15 AM · Report this

I presume a rural location has been ruled out, because: A of All) probably 90% of the people who attend come from Seattle and the immediate vicinity, and; B of All) that would entail thousands of vehicles driving to the site, which would create traffic problems, parking problems (which don't seem to be that much of a problem at the Myrtle Edwards locations), not to mention very environmentally unfriendly, which I believe is sort of the point of holding it in a central, urban location in the first place.


"WE" did NOT "jail a girl for jaywalking" - a Seattle LEO arrested her for assaulting a police officer - even you should be able to parse that difference.

And the Citizens of Seattle have already voted to mandate SPD put enforcement of marijuana possession laws at the BOTTOM of their priority list, which presumably also puts it below jaywalking.

For the Supreme Rule of The Universe, you sure don't seem to know very much about what's going on right under your own nose...
Posted by COMTE on June 24, 2010 at 9:40 AM · Report this
No Wire Hangers! 30
@ 27

Jaywalker lover!
Posted by No Wire Hangers! on June 24, 2010 at 10:29 AM · Report this
Geni 31
@13 - TOGA!
Posted by Geni on June 24, 2010 at 1:18 PM · Report this
Donolectic 32
@27 - Ah, so now I know you're John Bailo as you made a nearly identical comment on PubliCola. Thanks. :)
Posted by Donolectic on June 26, 2010 at 2:18 PM · Report this

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