HEMPFEST 2013: What Does The Average Person Think?

Share this with your friends

PHOTOS: Jack Rikess

When the Grand Dame behind Ladybud gave me the assignment to cover the largest marijuana gathering in the world, Seattle’s Hempfest; she only had one rule, “Don’t interview anyone famous! I want to hear from the common person, the regular Jane, no more celebrities! I care what the people think! Not someone I can hear on CNN!!!” She bellows, her instructions were gaining momentum like a Southern Senator just logging onto a porn site. She paused to take her cigar out.

I take the chance and cut her off.

I got it boss, no famous people.

The last two sounds I hear were of her spitting into the elegant hand-crafted spittoon from the Kathy Graham Collection purchased at ‘Powersuits, Pearl Beads & Beyond’ next to her desk, and the echoing refrain, “No famous people.”

So when I found myself sitting next to the controversial ex-mayor of San Francisco, the Hon. Willie Brown, on the flight to the Emerald City, I couldn’t hold back.

Mr. Mayor, I know that you’ve been working as a lobbyist for the pro-cannabis movement, representing Harborside and others. Is this your first time attending Hempfest?

While he’s contemplating ‘Why is this longhair old hippie-guy talking to [him] before 8am?”, my plane-mate answers incredibly candid.

“It’s funny you should mention cannabis. I was invited to speak at a center for the elderly in Claremont last week.  The discussion that night was about the benefits of treating seniors with cannabis,” the ex-mayor smiled as he spoke very honestly and candidly to a stranger about the advancements of cannabis in today’s society.

I broke a rule but got a good quote.

IMG_8713Hempfest gets better every year. The founder and truly righteous dude, Vivian McPeak and the all-volunteer staff do a kick-ass job making sure all goes well and smoothly, for the attendees and those city officials who put their reps on the line for weed.

Now celebrating its twenty-second anniversary, this year is promising to be even more festive because of the passage of Initiative 502; which will allow for the retail sale of pot in the State of Washington this coming February, making Washington as with Colorado, our two most liberated states, getting high-wise.

The three-day festival began Friday, but the real frying happens Saturday when the tribes have fully assembled as each wide-eyed pilgrim, kissing the grass like an immigrant coming to a promised land– joining the rest of their brothers and sisters of the cannabis nation.

This was Michael, a 22-year-old from Tacoma here for his second Hempfest. “I’m kinda worried I got here too late.” It was 6pm Friday night. Michael says this while he looks around at the still on-coming crowds filling the pathways and lining up at booths and food stands, “Hempfest is lots of fun. It’s really cool everyone smoking.”

Toby, 26, pierced through and through–you wonder how long he must have been rotating while pissing off the metal detector said it very succinctly, “It’s fucking awesome. It was worth everything to be here! I am the fucking tipping point.”

Kelly from Oklahoma, mother of two, chimed in delicately, “It’s also really nice to be around dedicated stoners.”

Besides the scent of tasty chronic waffling leisurely on this beautiful atypical Seattle day, the air of hope and the dawn of a new era bathed most of the attendees reflecting an undaunted optimism concerning the future.

Ty, who grew up in Seattle, was returning with his former Soviet Republic, Georgian girlfriend, Marie, to set down roots in the throes of this new paradigm shift Washington State is experiencing. “I’m back because it’s legal now. Seattle’s cool again.”

This is really your first Hempfest? What are you expecting?

“A big gathering without fights,” the young lad says honestly.

“This is my fourth or fifth ‘empfest,” Marie injects barely pronouncing the H. “I thought last year was a little commercial.”


“It didn’t feel like a community. People were off smoking by themselves. Little groups.”

What about this year?

“I’ll see…” Marie says with the look of a scientist ready to go back into the lab.

Speaking with one of the food vendors, I asked how this event stacks up against his other venues.

“You’ve got the ‘Dog-Pullers.’ Y’know, the young hippies with the hair and a dog on a frayed rope leash from Oregon and Northern California. They need a bath, beg for food, no money. But still…they all very nice.”

Courtesy of the Seattle Police Department!

Courtesy of the Seattle Police Department!

On Sunday, a guy with misshapen eyeglasses asked me if I knew where the 200-foot joint was. I said that I hadn’t heard about that. I said it could be true but that would take like 100 pounds to roll.

[Jack-Note: On Sunday, an enterprising young man produced a twenty-foot long rolling paper, encouraging other participants holding to assist with weed contributions. It didn’t happen.]

Then with the gaze of complete belief he said, “What’s weirder, a 200-foot joint being passed around or the cops handing out free Doritos to hippies?”

He had me there.

The cops really were handing out Doritos. I don’t know what the official count was by Sunday night, but I’m guessing about 300,000 pilgrims made to Hempfest. I’m sure Viv’s hard earned success after doing this for more than two decades will inspire the new ganja-capitalists with money for burning.

We’re bound to see more and more events of this type with the greening of this new era. From all over the world, you could see youth and veterans of the Woodstock Nation mingling, passing bowls and doobs, but I think it is safe to say, that your late twenty-somethings with backpacks filled of Mason jars or of the hottest moving substances, the waxes and budders–were hogging the heaviest demographics, filling the middle mean.

I spoke to many people at various times throughout the weekend. The replies were pretty much the same.

“It’s all happening, man. The genie’s out of the bottle. There’s no turning back.”

“It’s all happening, man. The genie’s out of the bottle. There’s no turning back.”

And as one dread-locked smiling freak said from his perch deep into lawn, laying like a tanning sphinx on golden day, “And it’s only going to get better,” passing a rainbow joint to the stranger next to him.

On the ride back to my hotel, the cabdriver raved about Hempfest. I thought for sure it was because of the revenue that almost a half a million freaks can bring to a city. I was wrong.

“I’m from Germany, grew up in Bosnia. I’ve been in Seattle for 10 years. Why is the marijuana illegal? Why arrest a young person, then destroy their lives…because why? They got caught?”

So you think Marijuana should be legal because prohibition doesn’t work?

“That and my mother-in-law. My wife’s mother has cancer. She receives treatments, medicine from Switzerland. She’ll die without it. It saved her life. Tell me why someone should be denied that?”

The only thing I could say. I hear it’s getting better.