Seattle Hempfest


Seattle Hempfest is an annual event in Seattle, Washington, the world’s largest annual gathering advocating decriminalization of marijuana. Founded in 1991 as the Washington Hemp Expo (attended by 500 people), it has grown into a 2-day annual political rally, concert, and arts and crafts fair with attendance typically over 250,000. Speakers have included Seattle city council member Nick Licata, actor/activist Woody Harrelson, travel writer and TV host Rick Steves, and former chief of the Seattle Police Department Norm Stamper.

Sixty people were cited for illegal marijuana use at the 1997 Hempfest, and about twenty were arrested the following year. Eventually Hempfest and the police reached a modus vivendi: there was only one arrest in 2001. The political context surrounding marijuana in Seattle and Washington has changed considerably over the years. Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998. In 2003, Seattle passed an initiative that made adult personal use marijuana offenses the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.


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