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Radical Rant: Don’t Let the 25th Seattle Hempfest Be the Last! Donate Now!

Russ Belville

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Seattle Hempfest

You have never experienced marijuana freedom like the annual Seattle Hempfest. But if you don’t make a donation today, you may not get to.

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2007: “Radical” Russ enjoys a yard-long joint called “The Cubit.”

Seattle Hempfest is a 1.6-mile waterfront park taken over for three days by 150,000 cannabis aficionados, shopping from hundreds of vendors, eating every type of carnival food, listening to a variety of music from five different stages and hearing the activist leaders in marijuana reform deliver motivational speeches from the stages and educational seminars in the Hemposium. It is the world’s largest ongoing political protest, and it needs your help to survive!

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2008: A Hemposium lineup you’ll never see again…

Hempfest is entirely volunteer-driven and dependent on donations and sponsorships for funding. Since Washington State has banned legal marijuana businesses from any sort of advertising, promotion or sampling at Hempfest, it can’t generate sponsorship revenue from the huge companies benefiting from the legalization that Hempfest’s activism helped create.

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2015: It rained so hard last year, some dude started building a hemp ark!

Hempfest is free to attend, but volunteers canvass for donations at the entrance and exit to the event. Everyone is encouraged to kick in five or 10 bucks, but what they get ends up being less than a dollar per attendee. Most years, that allows Hempfest to just barely scrape by, but last year, there was an unbelievable all-day downpour that shut down the event and wiped-out one-third of last year’s donations. That’s why Seattle Hempfest so desperately needs your help this year!

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2012: Don’t forget to bring a towel!

This will be my 12th Seattle Hempfest, and I’m telling you, you don’t want to see this event fade away if you’ve never had a chance to go. You may believe in freedom, you may know cannabis needs to be legalized, you may think you’re part of a movement, but until you’ve seen it, felt it and smelled it with 150,000 of your fellow tokers, it’s all just an abstract concept. Don’t let your chance to be a part of it fade away!

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2014: This is what democracy looks like—and smells like—from the Main Stage.

I first attended Seattle Hempfest in 2004. I hadn’t yet gotten into marijuana activism; I was still an in-the-closet corporate stoner. It was a bit overwhelming, even though back then it was only a two-day event.

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2006: Imprisoned medical grower Eddy Lepp, musician Pony Boy and NORML Board Member Madeline Martinez.

By 2005, I had joined up with Oregon NORML and met the irrepressible Madeline Martinez. She brought me along to man the Oregon NORML booth. Legalization was still seven years away, so we were working hard to educate consumers about their rights during a police encounter and registering them to vote.

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2009: View of the crowd before I spoke on Seeley Stage.

Over the next few years, I began working for National NORML. I continued speaking each year on all the main stages. Hempfest was becoming like a family reunion for me, where I’d see the Canadian, Midwest, Southern and East Coast activists who donate their time to present at the event of the year.

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2011: Canada’s Jodie Emery leads the Seeley Stage in the 4:20 celebration.

Vivian McPeak started the Seattle Hempfest way back in 1991 as the Washington Hemp Expo. Since then, the event has moved to its current location, Myrtle Edwards Park, and has hosted movie stars (Woody Harrelson, Tommy Chong), politicians (Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich) and some great bands (Fishbone, Kottonmouth Kings).

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2010: “Radical” Russ enjoys Hempfest’s version of a “Quarter Pounder.”

The activism of Seattle Hempfest extends beyond the three-day event. Hempfest’s core activists fought to make Seattle one of the first cities to set marijuana enforcement as the police’s lowest priority. Hempfest activists were passionate signature gatherers for the 1998 initiative to legalize medical marijuana. In 2012, when Washington’s I-502 legalization initiative divided the activist community, Hempfest was true to its dedication to free speech and let both sides have their say on the issue.

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2012: “Radical” Russ with then-law student Bradley Steinman, ironically wearing a “Yes on I-502” button on his “No on I-502” t-shirt.

This year’s Silver Anniversary Hempfest will be epic. I can’t wait to enjoy three days of sun, fun and smoke on the water. If you can’t make it this year, you really should mark down the third weekend in August on your future calendar and plan to attend. It will change your outlook and recharge your batteries to keep fighting for legalization where you live.

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2013: Bong rips with Stoney Sunday’s Coral Reefer and 420RADIO’s Urb Thrasher.

But you won’t get to attend a future Hempfest if it can’t pay the bills from this year’s event. Whatever you can give will be more than most of the people attending will donate. For $75 or more, you can also get sweet Hempfest posters and T-shirts delivered to you. Visit the Seattle Hempfest GoFundMe page to help out.

Seattle Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest 2015: NORML Founder Keith Stroup and Ed “NJ Weedman” Forchion.

I’ll see you at Hempfest!

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