Last weekend, when Hempfest planted its green butt on the downtown Seattle waterfront, lots of folks asked: Does Hempfest matter anymore? Now that Washington State has legalized marijuana and the cops are giving out Doritos, even stoners wondered, what's the point of a gigantic rally that, at least purportedly, is about legalizing pot?
I went to Hempfest. I didn't smoke any pot. So what was it that made me think Hempfest is more important than ever?
A few times a week, I pass a faded mural in the International District that reads "Another world is possible—drug-free." It's a throwback to an addictive idea from the 1980s and '90s that this could be a "Drug-Free America." But a drug-free nation—let alone a drug-free world—is objectively impossible.
Still, the underlying message of our recent landmark drug-policy reforms has been based on the idea that all illegal drug use is a scourge that can and should be mitigated. Take the pot-legalization initiative that voters passed last fall. It was a historic accomplishment, but its messaging was based on cutting off money to cartels and regulating the pot market to reduce its harm. I don't begrudge the sponsors for this tack; most voters, who don't smoke pot, want laws that benefit themselves, not stoners.
But there's a thorny truth that politics doesn't embrace: Pot is fun.
Smoking pot before the movies can be enthralling. Passing around a pipe before dessert can be delightful. Listening to a great DJ by the sunny shores of Elliott Bay while you smoke a joint is positively joyous.
Which is to say, Hempfest is fun. It's a brazen admission that pot smoking is not a sickness that needs to be cured.
Now, I can imagine snarky people saying that Hempfest isn't fun (for them), or saying some Hempfest stoners are idiotic caricatures. Oh, I'm sorry, do stoners present a bad image?
We've heard this one before: Gay pride parades send flotillas of gyrating leather daddies down Main Streets across America. People say that's also a bad image. People say it looks like gay culture is obsessed with sex and indulgence.