Hempfest, the city's annual pot legalization hootenanny, has asked the Seattle Police Department for additional officers to patrol the festival this weekend, says Sergeant Sean Whitcomb.
"It's a surreal situation to be a marijuana festival and request more police at your event, but that's the situation we are in," Hempfest director Vivian McPeak says by phone. For sure, it's a man-bites dog story about an event that had no pot arrests last year but was marked 15 years ago by dozens of stoners led out of the park in handcuffs. But it also demonstrates just how well—maybe too well?—diplomatic relations have gone between Hempfest and police, and between pot activists and a city government (literally every elected official in Seattle is on record supporting pot legalization).
There's no particular threat to public safety, McPeak says. "Last year we felt that there wasn't as much of a presence inside the event as we would have liked, and we were just hoping for a few more patrols per day this year than we got last year," he explains. "There are just a lot of people down there and we like to feel that if something happens, the cops can get there quickly. We just want to err on the side of safety."
Yet in another strange twist, McPeak insists he didn't make the request, nor did Hempfest lawyer Fred Diamondstone. (SPD stands by the assertion that Hempfest did, in fact, request more cops.)
Regardless, the police department says it won't assign more officers. "We believe that we had adequate staffing for Hempfest 2011, and we believe that is going to be sufficient this year," Sergeant Whitcomb explains. "We will ensure that appropriate staffing is in place to ensure the safety of those attending the event."