Hempfest, Seattle’s annual ‘all things cannabis’ festival, kicks off Aug. 16, with more than 100,000 people expected to attend. The event started in 1991 as the Washington Hemp Expo. Approximately 500 people attended the one-day event at Volunteer Park which focused on the failed war on drugs, a need for better information, and a chance to have fun. By 2001 the event had grown so much it moved to Myrtle Edwards Park, providing more space and the opportunity for extra days. Admission is free with more than 300 arts, crafts, food and informational vendors planning to show their wares along the expansive waterfront of Myrtle Edwards and Centennial parks. There will be three stages, including the Hemposium Stage that will feature panel discussions. Notable speakers this year include Myrtle Clarke and Julian Stobbs, also known as the “dagga couple.” (Dagga is what marijuana is called in South Africa.) The couple has fought for legalization in that country and to erase the records of people with criminal records for possession of dagga. Adults can use or grow dagga in their private spaces; however, there remains uncertainty regarding other possession or usage laws. Another slated speaker is Carolyn Garcia, aka Mountain Girl, the former wife of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia. In 1976, she penned a book about marijuana cultivation, called “Primo Plant: Growing Sinsemilla Marijuana.” Garcia currently sits on several boards including the Marijuana Policy Project. Other notable speakers include: • Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, recognized at Hempfest as National Activist of the Year in 2018, and one of the founders of Advanced Integrative Medicine of Seattle. • Nick Mosely of Confidence Analytics in Redmond, a state-certified and accredited testing lab for cannabis flower, concentrates and edibles. Confidence Analytics provided test results for the first cannabis samples in the U.S. • Bonita “Bo” Money, the founder of Women Abuv Ground, which is educating and supporting women of color who want to be part of the cannabis industry. With recreation and medical legalization in California, she wants to see more opportunities for people of color, especially since African-Americans and Latinos have borne the brunt of cannabis-related arrests in California. • Seth Cunnigan, who is diagnosed with fibromyalgia, has been documenting his walking trips from San Diego to Seattle. Notable musical acts this year include Seattle band Sky Cries Mary, a psych rock/cosmic group formed in the late 1980s by Roderick Wolgamott and Ben Ireland. Also performing is the Bellingham-based band, Cryptamnesia, which bills itself as monster hard rock with monstrous theatrics. DJ Yella – a member of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru with Dr. Dre, as well as N.W.A – will also be featured on the main stage. Recently, a legal wrinkle over what vendors could say or display in their signage threatened to impact Hempfest. But the Liquor and Cannabis Board recently clarified their policy to allow 502 licensees to display of a business name on a booth and to disseminate information that is “noncommercial” in nature, such as educational, informational or advocacy literature.
Linda Ball is a freelance journalist based in Washington State who has covered a variety of topics including environmental issues, city hall, arts and entertainment, education, human interest stories and now the rapidly-changing cannabis industry.