Seattle Hempfest Sues City of Seattle for 2011 Permit

Seattle Hempfest has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court against the City of Seattle, as well as its mayor, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, director of Seattle Center, and chairperson of the Seattle Special Events Committee. The suit seeks relief under the U.S. Constitution and the Washington Constitution, and was filed in an effort to obtain a 2011 permit to produce the annual free speech rally to reform America’s laws prohibiting cannabis.

The suit asks the city to issue an appropriate permit for Seattle Hempfest in August 2011 and, if necessary, to enjoin Seattle from implementing the “West Thomas Overpass project” in such fashion as to interfere with the use of Myrtle Edwards Park in August 2011. Planned summer construction of the sky-bridge in Myrtle Edwards Park, the location of Hempfest since 1995, has displaced the mammoth event which routinely draws more than 100,000 attendees annually.

Well aware of the slow-moving nature of the Seattle Special Events permit process, Hempfest submitted its special event application earlier than ever, in early November 2010, hoping for a decision within the 60-day period set forth by law. However, after months of negotiations Hempfest organizers find themselves with neither a date or a venue for the annual summer “protestival,” which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

With a little over six months to plan and produce the national cannabis reform movement’s flagship event, organizers feel they are fighting for the existence of the grass roots, all volunteer effort.

“It is with heavy hearts that we take this action against the city that we love,” said Hempfest’s executive director, Vivian McPeak. “We thoroughly wanted to spend the months leading up to Hempfest’s 20th anniversary working on the best event ever. Without a date or a venue that is almost impossible.”

Upon the suggestion of the Special Events Committee, Hempfest contacted the Seattle Center in October 2010 to see if that venue would be suitable for 2011. After a few months Seattle Center representatives decided the center could not adequately host Hempfest until 2013 because of pre-existing reservations on some facilities as well as planned Seattle Center construction.

“We are very excited about the prospect of a new foot bridge into Myrtle Edwards Park, but after initially being told by the city that the project would not impact our event, we were suddenly informed we needed to hold the event in June or take Hempfest somewhere else. We’ve been, and we still are looking for alternatives to Myrtle Edwards Park. However, there are few venues that are adequate and after many months of meetings we are simply running out of time. We hope we can work with the city to find a workable resolution soon and get back to producing our event,” McPeak added.

The latest updates and info about Hempfest 2011 can be found at Hempfest’s Web site at

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