SEATTLE — Today marks the anniversary of the day Washington’s legal marijuana law took effect, and hundreds of people are expected to celebrate by lighting up beneath the Space Needle at a party permitted by the city of Seattle.
Marijuana activist Ben Livingston says it took him three months to persuade city officials to grant him the permit, which was amended on Thursday to double the party’s capacity to 999 people. The free event began at 4:20 p.m. PST in a tent set up behind a double perimeter fence at Seattle Center, with any pot smoking to occur out of public view.
“I want to make the point that cannabis consumers are good people, and we should be treated equally with other people when trying to utilize city facilities,” Livingston said.
The party was being held near Key Arena, where Pearl Jam was ending a North American tour, and Livingston has extended an open invitation to the band’s fans to swing by on their way to or from the show.
The Winterfest holiday lighting celebration, a Pacific Northwest Ballet performance of the Nutcracker, and a Seattle Children’s Theatre staging of “James and the Giant Peach” are also set Friday night at the Seattle Center campus.
Those events don’t jibe so well with a big pot party, according to some drug abuse prevention groups. Nine people — including Dr. Leslie R. Walker, chief of adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Derek Franklin, president of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention — sent a letter to the Seattle Center, the City Council and the mayor, asking the event be canceled.
“Seattle Center is a poor location for the party considering it takes place during Winterfest, a family-friendly event, and among popular venues that cater to children and their families,” the letter said.
Livingston responded by noting that the family-friendly Winterfest has a beer tent, which no one is protesting.
Seattle Center spokeswoman Deborah Daoust said the pot party was permitted by the city, and it’s the center’s role to help ensure it’s a success.
The party will feature several informational vendors who are helping to offset the party’s estimated $11,000 cost, but Livingston hopes to recoup the rest of the balance through poster sales and donations.
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