CANNABIS CULTURE – The marijuana movement is growing like a weed in Washington State, and the lush culture of the cannabis world will be on full display when Tacoma Hempfest lights up Wright Park for the second year in a row on June 25, 2011.
After a successful first run in 2010, Tacoma Hempfest organizers say this year’s event will be bigger and better, with more vendors, information about hemp and cannabis activism, resources for medical marijuana users, creations by local artists, and a “genre-bending blowout” of Puget Sound musical talent.
Tacoma Hempfest founder and organizer Justin Prince told told Cannabis Culture he hopes to transcend the stoner stereotypes and reach a larger audience by attracting people from outside the traditional boundaries of the cannabis community.
“We want people to understand that anybody they see is potentially a cannabis user,” Prince said, “and so the stereotypes they hold in their head about us being a bunch of dirty hippies with dreadlocks are wrong. It could be the dude in the suit right next to you and you would never even know. We want people to see that the face of cannabis is any face.”
Over 50 vendors will set up shop in the park, including cannabis-related food businesses, head shops, cannabis dispensaries and medical groups, hemp producers, and more. Non-profit and activist groups like NORML will be onsite sharing information about marijuana and hemp activism.
This year’s event will feature a “Go Green! Information Exchange” that Prince says will be devoted to green-industry use of cannabis and other natural resources for medical, industrial, commercial and social purposes. This includes “electrical contractors, growers, and environmental groups who can interact directly with the public and get their information out to people.”
Prince says the festival will highlight local visual artists with the addition of the “Homegrown Artists’ Alley”, a commission-based display and sales space “devoted to exhibiting local arts without paying up-front for booth space.”
A growing line-up of local bands, DJs, hip-hop crews, and solo artists are scheduled to perform throughout the one-day event and at several planned after-parties. Check out the list of musical talent and the after-party schedule.
Prince was able to secure a permit from the city for the second year in a row, but said the agreement with authorities comes with some downsides, like off-duty police officers in the form of expensive park security and a non-smoking rule.
“We will have medication tents set up for patients,” Prince said. “Because it’s a non-smoking park, we’re going to offer vaporizers and alternatives to smoking. All the Tacoma parks are non-smoking parks, so we try to explain to people that the no-smoking rule is to keep them out of trouble. The cops in Tacoma are not as co-operative as Seattle cops on this issue.”
Tacoma park authorities use off-duty cops as the only security option, something Prince said was slightly problematic last year, though there were no arrests.
“We had plenty of people trying to light up and the cops were giving out warnings,” he said. “They didn’t arrest anybody last year, but we’re not really sure how cool they’re going to continue to be this year. We’ve got an initiative we’re gathering signatures for right now in Tacoma to make marijuana the lowest police priority like in Seattle [Tacoma Municipal Initiative 1]. If we can get that one on the books for next year, then they would likely be easier on us. This year, we still have to play by the rules.”
On the night of June 25, Hempfest organizers will host the 2nd “Tacoma Hempfest Green Cup”, which Prince says will feature “a flowers competition, a concentrates division, an edibles division and even a topical division.”
“We’re trying to get away from just the big bud smoke-out and show people a little more of the diversity of the products available,” he said.
Tacoma is just a short drive from Seattle, which boasts a 300,000-strong Hempfest that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Prince said he hopes the Tacoma event offers something different than what people are used to from bigger events. He said medical marijuana will be a strong focus, and he hopes to provide a safe and comfortable environment for those with debilitating illnesses who aren’t familiar with the cannabis world.
“That’s one of the effects the crossover with medical marijuana community has had in a pretty stunning way,” he said. “You get a lot of people who have had no exposure to the cannabis culture becoming medical patients and trying to figure out how all this stuff works. That’s kind of why we have the approach we do; we’ve got a lot of people who are new to cannabis. We want to give them a friendly but professional entrance into what’s going on and how to get that information.”
Prince says he is proud the event is “one of the few 100% alcohol-free events in the city” and that he expects about 15,000 attendees this year.
Washington State is in the midst of a fierce battle over marijuana laws, which includes scuffles with Washington Governor Chris Gregoire over med-pot dispensaries and a strong push to legalize marijuana for all in 2011 with a state-wide Ballot Initiative 1149 that continues to gain support.