The city of Seattle is no stranger to cannabis. In 2012 Washington, alongside Colorado became the first two states to fully legalize cannabis for recreational use. However, the push for the legalization of cannabis use goes back further than that. In fact, for 28 years, the city of Seattle has held its very own annual festival dedicated to doing just that. If you are looking for the best rolling paper for your joints check out our post about choices of rolling papers.
What is Hempfest?
Hempfest began in 1991 as the Washington Hemp Expo. It was then lovingly refereed to as “a humble gathering of stoners.” Its goal was simple, to advocate for the decriminalization of cannabis in the United States. The festival features three main stages that host speakers, concerts, and other hemp related performances. As well as distributors, and vendors selling and advertising all things cannabis.
The Early Days of Hempfest
The early days of Hempfest were rather tumultuous, however. The open and blatant use of marijuana at the festival drew the unwanted attention of local law enforcement. In the 1997 Hempfest, over 60 festival attendees were given citations, and the following year 20 attendees were arrested.
It was obvious that the Seattle police department wanted no part in this cannabis festival. The resilience and determination to raise awareness, and lift the stigma attached to marijuana usage led the Hempfest organizers to push forward.
Year after year, the festival grew, despite the disapproving eye of the law enforcement growing stronger. But the power of cannabis would win out, and local law enforcement would eventually reach an agreement with the people behind Hempfest.
There was simply too many people in attendance at the annual festival to crack down effectively. Police officers eventually agreed to simply allow the festival to happen, despite state laws still prohibiting marijuana use.
Record Breaking Attendance in 2008
In August of 2008, the festival set a new record for attendance. Over 300,000 people from all over the world had converged on the city of Seattle to attend the two day event, and show their support for the cause. The people were voicing their opinion, and it was being heard.
Rabidly local politicians were pushing for marijuana law reform. While the state had recognized the uses of marijuana medically in 1998, they still saw recreational use as a federal crime.
Political Attention Began to Rise in 2011
In 2011, Hempfest would have finally gotten the attention of political representatives nationwide. One of the key speakers at the 2011 event was Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich, and the mayor of Seattle Mike McGinn.
And in 2013 the event would get the interest of big name recording artists such as Cypress Hill, who would end up performing at the festival that very year. The voice of cannabis activism was catching on like wildfire.
Hemfest Has Now Spread Across the US and the Activism Still Continues
Today, Hempfest operates with a budget of nearly $1,000,000, and has spread across the country. Cities like Olympia, WA. Boise, ID. Salem, OR. And Missoula, MO. All host their own versions of this iconic festival.
Hempfest, and the brave activists who brought about its creation, has been at the frontier of cannabis activism for nearly three decades. And they show no signs of stopping. Their ultimate goal is to not only see marijuana legalized fully nationwide, but to also see all social stigmas surround cannabis users radically changed.
After all, cannabis users are everywhere. They are your mothers, your cousins, your bosses, your doctors, your favorite celebrities. The benefits of Cannabis, and marijuana usage deserves to be treated with less negativity. Hempfest does a lot to bring about that social change.