CANNABIS CULTURE – In what organizers are calling “an absolute travesty of police fuck-upery”, several glass vendors at the Tacoma Hempfest were shut down and given paraphernalia citations by off-duty police officers hired by the city to work security for park events.
“We’re still just trying to figure out what the hell happened,” Justin Prince, organizer of the 2nd-Annual Tacoma Hempfest, told Cannabis Culture in an interview today.
What started as a peaceful gathering quickly turned into a nightmare when off-duty cops, hired by the city to work all permitted event in local parks in Tacoma, began shutting down vendors, claiming they were selling marijuana paraphernalia.
Police handed out 13 citations to vendors selling glass bong and pipes, hemp products, incense holders and anything with a pot leaf symbol on it. According to Prince, police also took personal property without leaving any kind of receipt or paperwork for the seizure.
Prince says he and his lawyers will be starting legal action against the City of Tacoma and the “rogue” police officer who started the trouble during the June 25 event.
“People worked their butts off for months to make sure there were enough products on hand,” he said, “and then the police just shut them down? You can’t just go do that.”
No arrests were made, but the police presence set a chilling tone and caused a considerable disturbance.
“We had Tribal Police show up [as the park is on Tribal land], who are actually Federal officers,” Prince said. “We got pretty lucky because technically they could have locked everyone in a room and searched everything and anyone who had even a portion of marijuana on them could have been looking at Federal charges. Instead, I talked to them when they came onsite and figured out a workable arrangement. Everyone was kind of able to stay in the hotel and do what they were doing all night and nobody ended up going to jail.”
A “Tacoma Hempfest Green Cup” was scheduled to take place on Saturday night, and many attendees paid $100 for a package that included medical strains to sample and judge. Though some attendees were angry, Prince said he felt it was necessary to cancel the competition and refrain from handing out the samples.
“At that point the Cup changed completely,” he said. “When you are looking at doing Federal time or maybe everybody just relaxing for the night – we were just happy avoiding a lot of legal headaches. If I had showed up expecting one thing and things turned out that way, yeah, I’d be a little upset too, but I’d try to find out what the actual story was.”
Prince said he hoped attendees who paid the $100 would hold on to their tickets, and that he would likely be scheduling a new event to make up for the cancel “Green Cup”.
There were hints of trouble according to Prince, when he received a letter from the police officer in charge of security in the weeks before the event specifically warning that people selling glass and paraphernalia would be targeted by police, but Prince said his lawyers told him things would be fine.
“We were kind of aware the cops were potentially going to have this attitude,” he said, “so we made sure that everybody was prepared to show up and record stuff and take pictures.”
At the 1st-Annual Tacoma Hempfest that took place the year before, police handed out warnings to people lighting up joints, but left the vendors alone.
As for next year, Prince said he has no plans to call off the festival.
“We are absolutely going to do it again next year,” he said.
CC contacted the Tacoma Police Dept. for comment but our calls were not returned by the time of publication of this article.
If you have video clips or pictures of police actions at the Tacoma Hempfest, please send them to [email protected]