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Saturday, July 11, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Parties postponed: COVID-19 impacts industry events

Seattle Hempfest brings over 100,000 visitors to the Seattle waterfront over three days each summer; the status of the 2020 gathering has yet to be determined. (Mark Gladding / Seattle Hempfest)
Seattle Hempfest brings over 100,000 visitors to the Seattle waterfront over three days each summer; the status of the 2020 gathering has yet to be determined. (Mark Gladding / Seattle Hempfest)
Kate A. Miner EVERCANNABIS Correspondent

UPDATE: Seattle Hempfest organizers announced on May 28 that this year’s gathering would be online.

While Washington cannabis growers and retailers are adapting well to high demand amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, events in the cannabis industry have stalled.

People who work in this field are traditionally social, and it’s not uncommon for deals to be finalized over smoking together. Plus, as the industry becomes more normalized, many participants have grown to like traditional vendor fairs, seminars, celebrations and ‘mainstream’ opportunities to gather and learn.

Unfortunately, Washington events in all industries have been canceled or postponed due to health concerns, venue restrictions or financial challenges facing traditional sponsors.

One affected event is the 3rd annual Sun Cup Invitational, organized by the Washington SunGrowers Industry Association, which has been postponed until a later date.

Crystal Oliver, executive director for WSIA, explained that the competition will still happen, but maybe not the way it was originally planned. Last year, the group maxed out the facility for the awards presentation, so the gathering planned to move to a bigger venue this year.

Now the public judging ceremony and events will most likely be canceled. Instead, WSIA is looking at ways to move the competition online.

For this event, judges are provided with blind samples for six different categories grown at Washington farms. Categories are concentrates and vapes, edibles, infused pre-rolls, and three types of flower: full-term sun-grown flower (planted in spring, harvested in the fall), CBD flower, and greenhouse flower (grown using light generation techniques). There are six judges, each judging one to two categories. They have three weeks, and judge on appearance, fragrance, and taste, rating taste for smoothness, overall effect, and sample notes.

Other events that have been canceled or changed include Interchange in Renton in May, which was moved to July 21-22; Budfest, which was planned in July but canceled when the City of Bellingham called off all live events until Aug. 30; and Cannabis Curious, an educational event planned in July in Spokane Valley, which has been canceled.

Seattle Hempfest, the country’s largest cannabis protest/festival (“protestival”) in Seattle has been planning to celebrate its 28th year in August. But at press time, its status was officially “unknown.”

Vivian McPeak, president of Seattle Events and producer of Hempfest, explained that even if the event is allowed to happen, the organization will severely suffer consequences.

In mid-May, he said that a decision to cancel Hempfest would be based on many things, primarily safety.

“Hempfest must prioritize the health and safety of attendees and staff, and the disproportionate amount of medical cannabis patients that attend who are in high-risk group,” McPeak said. “Right now, we are trying to do everything we can to save the event. This is typically our prep time, which obviously cannot occur. We are reticent to reserve the massive amount of equipment required to produce Hempfest, such as staging, fencing, generators and sanitation, without knowing if the event is going to be allowed to occur.”

Although a decision to either cancel, delay or radically change Hempfest and other regular cannabis events for 2020 could be a huge blow to the community, many also acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has led lawmakers and enforcement agencies to reevaluate industry regulations and restrictions, potentially paving the way to accommodate new ways of distributing and selling marijuana.

“Everything has gone backwards,” remarked McPeak, “except cannabis!”

Kate A. Miner has a degree in visual anthropology, and has worked in marketing and advertising for many years. She writes, takes photos and teaches yoga.

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