|Thousands Attend Hempfest in Seattle|
Posted by CN Staff on August 18, 2002 at 16:31:59 PT|
By Janie McCauley, Associated Press Writer
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
An estimated 80,000 people packed Myrtle Edwards Park along Seattle's waterfront Saturday for the first day of Hempfest, a weekend festival aimed at changing the nation's marijuana laws.
Seattle police were out in force for the event, but there was no shortage of joints, pipes or puffy clouds of pot. "This stuff never hurt nobody," said Bud Mack, 54, a Vietnam veteran who attended Hempfest with his daughter, Rainbow.
Organizers said they expected a greater turnout than last summer, when 150,000 people attended. Hempfest is billed as the largest such event in the world, with protesters arguing for the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana.
Thomas Pudmaroff, a floor-covering specialist from Federal Way, has attended all 11 times the annual event has been held at Myrtle Edwards Park. He now volunteers.
Pudmaroff smokes marijuana every day to help alleviate some of the pain from severe migraines he's been suffering for 17 years -- and he wants the drug to be legal.
In 1985, Pudmaroff says, he suffered a brain injury after someone pushed him off a 150-foot cliff in a Federal Way park. To this day, he says, he doesn't know who did it, but he points to the evidence: a 165-stitch scar across his head. He had two blood clots on the surface of his brain.
"I was told I'd be a vegetable for the rest of my life," said Pudmaroff, 32. "I don't want to take prescription drugs. I found smoking a little bit of marijuana helps. They told me I'd have seizures all my life and I haven't had one."
Ted DeBray, 35, came from Port Angeles to show his support for marijuana use.
"I think it should be legal," he said. "I'm 35 and haven't smoked since I was 17, but a lot of my friends do. I'm a criminal defense lawyer and I see firsthand that the war on drugs is a complete failure."
To outside observers, Hempfest appears to be a just a big party with loud music, food and booths selling pipes, trinkets and tie-dyed clothing.
Hempfest director Dominic Holden likes to call it a "protestival."
"Art and politics have always come together well historically in American civil rights movements," Holden said. "Our strong message is that the drug war has failed and we have viable alternatives."
He said Seattle-based Hempfest is asking that adults who use marijuana responsibly "not be treated as criminals and that non-violent users have an alternative to incarceration."
Four people were arrested, KCPQ-TV reported Saturday night.
"We're just monitoring things in case things go bad," officer E.A. Greening said. "Everybody is getting along."
Bud and Rainbow Mack, from Salem, Ore., sold hundreds of hemp leis near the festival entrance.
"Legalize marijuana, of course!" Bud Mack said.
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