Smoke on the Water

After my cross-country tour, the next stop on my “Smoke the Vote” campaign would be Washington—State, that is. I’d never been to Seattle before, but our associate publisher, Rick Cusick, has been a featured speaker at Hempfest for the past few years, and had regaled me with such exciting tales that I volunteered to accompany him this year and run the High Times booth.

We were staying at the historic Edgewater Inn, notorious stomping ground of British Invaders like the Fab Four, the Stones and Led Zeppelin. In fact, our room was directly adjacent to the Beatles Suite—the location of Zep’s infamous “mudshark” incident (Google it). Our buddy Gideon picked us up on Saturday morning in a golf cart and zipped us through the thickening crowds in Myrtle Edwards Park and over to our booth near the main stage, which we were sharing with Norml and the Emperor of Hemp himself, Jack Herer.

The festival started off with speeches from Rick—who discussed his smoking arrest at last year’s Boston Freedom Rally—and Miss High Times 2007 Sarah Newton, who exuded her usual groovy energy. Sarah was also scheduled to model in the hemp-fashion show at the Hemposium stage later that afternoon, but graciously covered for me at the booth so I could look around for a while. I grabbed my trusty camcorder, sparked up a big cone and started walking north. The weather was perfect: a record 90 degrees, with no sign of the city’s notorious rain clouds. I looped around the top of the park and headed back down along the waterfront, checking out the endless vendors and visiting with friends like Irie Eyewear, Marijuana Radio and Never Get Busted’s Barry Cooper. I also caught some of the slammin’ Pantera-esque metal band Mechanism on the McWilliams Stage and glam rockers Vains of Jenna on the main stage.

As the sun set into Puget Sound, I shut down the booth and headed over to NORML’s VIP dinner. I arrived late, but found an empty seat with a bunch of chill younger heads from Oregon. Just before dessert, NORML’s Jeff Steinborn got up and requested that we go around the room and introduce ourselves. It was then that I learned my tablemates were the children of Meril Draper, a beloved Hempfest crewman who’d recently died in a tragic motorcycle accident. After dinner, we had a monster session out front in his honor before departing for the night.

The next day, I put on my journalist hat and got busy, snagging interviews with sexy singer Kim Manning, pro-pot congressional candidate Paul Richmond and stoner travel guru Rick Steves. I was even interviewed myself—for a live Internet broadcast called The Show With No Name. I spent the rest of the day at the High Times booth, slinging merch, signing mags, meeting the many fans that came by, and listening to speeches by the nation’s most devoted activists—veteran freedom fighters like NORML founder Keith Stroup and Hempfest organizer Vivian McPeak, who informed the crowd that we’d set a new attendance record of 150,000 people. That was the second record broken that weekend; then, just around 4:20, came the hat trick: the world’s largest joint.

Now, I was among the first to toke upon the previous “world’s largest joint,” rolled in Amsterdam at the 2006 Cannabis Cup, and I can tell you that this one was just as long and almost three times as wide. It had been crafted, I later learned, using half a bucket of Blueberry, 10 rolls of EZ Wider paper and cardboard towel rolls as its filter. I stared greedily as this gigantic joint crowd-surfed its way toward our booth, landing in the hands of Hemperor Herer himself. As he held it up and took a puff, a deafening cheer echoed across the park, dwarfing any I’d heard all weekend.

Next up was Keith Stroup, who took a deep drag and passed it to me.

“We should do this every weekend,” I said as I took a toke.

He placed his hand on my shoulder and replied, “We’re working on it.”

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