Seattle has had Hempfest for 16 years and it's one of my favorite photo-ops. Like the Fremont Solstice Fair with the naked bicyclists, it's a "family affair" as well as a trade fair, music & political fest. Yet people still decline to give their name to reporters. 150,000 or so visit the two-day event, largest in the country and costing $200,000 to produce, which is held on the waterfront.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Washington since 1998 and recreational marijuana in small amounts has been lowest police enforcement priority for a couple of years. The US outlaws cultivation of hemp as well as its importation, therefore both the drug and the fiber, yet even Nordstrom carries hemp clothing. Hemp can grow fast, without pesticides and can be blended with other textiles. According to the Seattle Times, domestic paraphernalia makers complain that China has cornered the market on borosilicate, cutting into their glass water pipe business.
My strategy was to walk up one side and down the other several times with my camera, ending up at the most crowded place at 4:20, when I would wander into the crowd. People smoked openly, with police on horseback circulating through occasionally. On the way home, I met quite a few teens who had come in from the suburbs. Some hoped their parents didn't know where they'd been, while others claimed theirs could smoke them under the table.
According to Seattle PI, Edmonds travel guru Rick Steves returned from Europe for the event. He referred to the Declaration of Independence and its call for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Many Europeans, he added, compare marijuana use to alcohol rather than luming it in with heroin as in US.
(More Hempfest photos to follow later)