A three-day marijuana festival began last Friday at Seattle’s waterfront park in celebration of a victory with the state’s new marijuana legalization.
The event was expected to draw as many as 85,000 people per day. Vendors displayed glass pipes, tie-dyed clothing, purses and necklaces, as thousands lit bongs and listened to speeches, various bands, or watched ferries cross the bay.
Vivian McPeak, Hempfest’s executive director, said this year’s event was dedicated to reforming federal marijuana laws, and asked festival-goers to make a voluntary $10 contribution to help offset the rally’s $800,000 cost.
“When we started Hempfest in 1991, many people thought we were jousting in the wind,” McPeak said. “What we’ve seen with the historic passage of I-502 and measure 62 in Colorado is that change is definitely in the wind.”
Both Washington and Colorado have legalized the possession of up to an ounce of pot by adults over 21. And both states will allow state-licensed growers and processors, along with stores where taxed, regulated pot will be sold.
So instead of writing tickets for public pot smoking, this year Seattle police distributed bags of Doritos tortilla chips with information on the state’s pot laws.
“It feels great that instead of issuing citations for public smoking, the police are issuing Dorito bags,” McPeak said. “That seems like a big deal.”
“Distributing salty snacks at a festival celebrating hemp, I think, is deliberately ironic enough that people will accept them in good humor,” says police department spokesman Sergeant Sean Whitcomb. “We want to make sure people learn the rules and that they respect the vote.”
The labels on the Doritos bags provide information about the SPD’s post-legalization rules, reminding citizens that possessing up to an ounce of pot is allowed, but selling and growing pot remains illegal until licenses are issued later this year by the state.
According to a local Seattle newspaper, the city council and city attorney are drafting a new version of a municipal citation for public pot smoking, even though Seattle police can cite people for public consumption under state law.
Instead of issuing tickets, Seattle cops have just been warning people that if they openly smoke pot in public they can be ticketed. Police claim the warnings have been sufficient and to date, they haven’t had to issue citations.
“We’ve said all along that this is a momentous period in our history. We only get to do it once,” said police Sergeant Whitcomb.
“Our department has taken a leadership role in public education, and it’s a responsibility we are taking very seriously. We are not looking to have a heavy hand when it comes to enforcement. That said, the rules are the rules, and we want people to voluntarily comply with them.”