|Hempfest Crowd Rallies for Pot-Policy Reform|
Posted by CN Staff on August 19, 2002 at 07:48:21 PT|
By J.J. Jensen, Seattle Times Staff Reporter
Source: Seattle Times
Around 75,000 people were living the high life yesterday as they packed Seattle's Myrtle Edwards Park for Hempfest 11, one of the largest marijuana-reform rallies in the world.
This year's two-day event, which organizers estimated drew an all-time high of 150,000, served as an opportunity for marijuana smokers to show their "Pot Pride" and for supporters of drug-policy reform to unite and support the city's Initiative 75. The initiative would make law enforcement's lowest priority enforcement of laws on personal marijuana possession.
Hempfest director Dominic Holden, 25, a Seattle waiter, became involved with the event in 1994. Growing up in the Central District, he said he witnessed police harass his African-American friends about marijuana use but look the other way when whites were involved.
"The vast majority of marijuana smokers are like all other adults and have jobs and families," he said. "In a nutshell, Seattle Hempfest advocates adults who use marijuana responsibly should not be treated as criminals, and nonviolent drug offenders need alternatives to incarceration such as treatment and job training."
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), noted that "people here are mellow, chill and very, very tolerant and I don't see that as a bad thing."
Every so often, groups of younger people shared some shifty looks and ducked down to the waterfront to pass a joint, while others weren't afraid to fire up a doobie while they sat in the grass and listened to bands and pro-marijuana speakers.
Seattle police were there, but Officer E.A. Greening told The Associated Press on Saturday, "We're just monitoring things in case things go bad. Everybody is getting along."
Newcomers and Hempfest veterans alike said they enjoyed coming for the music, culture and being around others who want marijuana laws relaxed.
"As far as marijuana possession, it's kind of minor — people don't go around killing each other on pot. It would cut down on a lot of crime and help a lot of people with illnesses if they legalized it," said Shun Tate, 29, of Tacoma. "I hope lawmakers realize how calm and rational people are when it comes to marijuana."
"It helps with cramps, too," added his wife, Retina.
Organizers hoped the support for Hempfest would show lawmakers that citizens want marijuana laws reformed. Organizers have submitted almost 20,000 signatures in their effort to get I-75 on the ballot.
The event featured thousands of volunteers, 50 political organizations and hundreds of exhibits, vendors and speakers, including Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata and Roger Goodman, director of the King County Bar Association.
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
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