Radical Rant: Kevin Sabet Kicks Hempfest When It’s Down


Seattle Hempfest

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I’m currently in Seattle, about to attend to the 26th annual Seattle Hempfest. It’s my favorite event of the year. It’s like a canna-family reunion on the 3rd weekend of August every year for the past 26 years.

So, of course, the Joker to my Batman, Kevin Sabet, thinks that he can mess this up for me.

For the first time that I can recall, Kevin Sabet and his Project SAMUEL (Smart Approaches to Marijuana Use Except Legalization) have directly attacked this Seattle cannabis event.

Sabet took out a full-page ad in one of the Seattle free weekly papers for this weekend, excoriating Hempfest, in another example of his “Big Marijuana” scaremongering.

In an interview with Denver’s Westword, Sabet claims that Seattle Hempfest, if you look at its sponsors, has been taken over by Big Tobacco 2.0—what he calls the modern legal marijuana industry in Washington State.

Look, Joker, if Seattle Hempfest had been taken over by big corporate sponsors, they wouldn’t have shrank the event from six stages to three this year.

Every year is just a struggle to survive for the all-volunteer Seattle Hempfest. They survive solely on the donations of the public who attend the event and the vendors who display their wares there.

Every year, the city of Seattle and the mainstream business leaders try their best to find some way to shut down this expression of free speech and peaceable assembly, a gathering of citizens, some 100,000 of us, to protest our federal government’s continuing injustice of marijuana prohibition.

You’d think that since Washington legalized marijuana in 2012, and the state raking in money hand over fist in tax revenue, and with hundreds of legal cannabis businesses thriving in the state of Washington, there would be plenty of money and corporate sponsorship for Seattle Hempfest.

Instead, in the wake of legalization, Washington State’s legislature has ratcheted down advertising restrictions on legal cannabis businesses, so strict that it makes it nearly impossible for them to do any sort of effective marketing at the Seattle Hempfest.

If this were any one of a number of legal beer festivals happening in Seattle and around the country, there’d be dozens of beer vendors, with booth babes in their tents giving out branded merchandise, T-shirts and even letting people sample the various beers on tap that they have to offer.

But in Washington State, if you are a licensed marijuana vendor, you are only allowed to have two 1600 square inch signs for your business. You are not allowed to have cartoons or mascots or sign wavers or booth babes or any of the typical ways that beer vendors would advertise their products. And, most certainly, you are not allowed to distribute any of your marijuana products on site.

None of the scares that Kevin Sabet was offering about legalized marijuana way back in 2012 have even come true. The State of Washington’s Office of Financial Management produced a PowerPoint presentation this year on the five-year impact of marijuana legalization in Washington State, addressing Sabet’s fears.

The results?

Kids aren’t using marijuana any more now than they did back then. Only one in 250 students in Washington State get suspended or expelled for marijuana. The number of drug-only DUIs has dropped from over 1,700 to around 1,200. The number of 15 to 19 year olds being admitted to rehab for marijuana has plummeted. Teenage ease of access to marijuana products has stayed relatively the same for 12th graders and has dropped for the younger grades.

And, best of all, about 125 million dollars a month in marijuana sales is no longer benefiting the underground market and is generating about 25 million dollars a month in tax revenue for the state.

I guess Kevin likes the old days better, when every marijuana sale benefited a criminal and not a school. I guess Kevin likes the old days better, when new businesses and new jobs weren’t being created every day that contribute to the legitimate economy. I guess Kevin likes the old days better, when the vendors who sold marijuana didn’t check people’s identification to verify they were 21 years old.

I’ll have plenty more data to show Kevin Sabet live from the main stage at Seattle Hempfest at 3:40 p.m. PST today. Visit Hempfest.org to find how you can live stream the full three-day event. You’ll hear some of the most amazing speakers from activism and the marijuana industry, in between some of the best local bands the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

And if you can manage it, visit Hempfest.org and make a donation to keep Seattle Hempfest alive.

If you’ve never visited the Seattle Hempfest, it’s a pilgrimage you must make sometime in your life to consider yourself a true cannabis aficionado. But it won’t be there unless you help it out. Give what you can today. Thanks.

Previously in Radical Rant: Former Baltimore Narcotics Officer Has Solution for Rooting Out Bad Cops
Click here for all of Russ Belville’s columns.

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