Seattle HempFest takes bite out of prohibition

Seattle skyline

The Emerald City of Seattle is more green than ever since Washington voters passed I-502. Photos by Chris Conrad.

By Chris Conrad

WCL News — Seattle police made peace with the world’s largest “protestival” for cannabis reform, the Seattle Hempfest by passing out 1,000 packs of Doritos to festival goers August 16 to 18, 2013. Each bag contained a greeting and a message to alert people to the new legalization law and the policy of the city’s police department.

This year’s annual event, which draws well over 100,000 attendees to the Emerald City, was the first since voters approved I-502. The initiative, which legalized adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, was controversial at last year’s event because of its tight restrictions, including a ban on cultivation and an arbitrary (and probably much-too-low) per se limit of 0.5 ng/ml of THC in the blood for drivers. Those factors contributed to a fractious and sometimes hostile attitude among HempFest attendees in 2012, but all was harmony this year.

Seattle Doritos bag

Seattle police passed out special bags of Doritos chips to the HempFest crowd Aug. 16-18, 2013. Photo by Chris Conrad.

A spokesperson for the Seattle Police Department, speaking from the main stage at the event, said that the department intends “to enforce the law, and I-502 is the law.” He said that although the initiative did not authorize public smoking, the city would suspend enforcement at the event. Likewise, recognizing that it will take time for the policy to be fully implemented, he said that until there are regulated outlets for adults to buy and consume cannabis “our policy will be one of ‘leniency’.”

Seattle HempFest is the largest legalization rally in the world, and there was concern about how attendance would be following the voters’ embrace of legal adult use. The turnout was as large as ever, the weather was fantastic, the music was eclectic and enjoyable and there were no incidents or arrests to besmirch the event’s reputation as the “must attend” event of the hemp rally circuit.

Some people were concerned that attendees might take offense at the stereotype of using junk food to deliver a message to cannabis consumers but, true to form, the people we spoke with appreciated the thought and thought it was a hilarious approach and a good way to reach people. The bags quickly became a prized item and most people were saving the bags as souvenirs, often still unopened. Shortly after the event, bags of the chips were selling online for upwards of $65 each as collector’s items. A bag has even been added to the Oaksterdam Cannabis Museum collection.

The text of the label is reproduced below and leads readers to a website,, where the policy and its nuances are posted online. There is as-yet no data on how many people listened to Dark Side of the Moon while eating the chips. — West Coast Leaf News Service

Seattle police message on Doritos bag.

Seattle police greeted HempFest attendees with a special message on Aug. 16-18, 2013, attached to bags of Doritos. Photo by Chris Conrad.



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