Seattle Hempfest is held the third weekend in August each year in Myrtle Edwards and Centennial Parks on the Seattle waterfront.. For over two decades it has been the largest gathering of speakers on cannabis policy reform in the world, as well as a sophisticated and socially responsible cannabis rally, and perhaps the largest annual free speech event in the nation. Hempfest is founded in the belief that the public is better served when citizens and public officials work cooperatively in order to successfully accomplish common goals. (You know, like, democracy is supposed to work. Imagine.)
Hempfest features world-class music as a backdrop to extensive educational and informational content presented by some of the nation’s leading experts in the field of marijuana policy reform. The festival seeks to advance the public image of cannabis by educating Washington residents on the benefits offered by the Cannabis plant, including the medical marijuana, industrial, agricultural, economic, and environmental applications.
Oh, and did we mention, admission is free to the 3 day waterfront event.
Hempfest seeks to educate the public on the myriad applications of the cannabis plant, the laws about its use, efforts for reform, and conducting business in the new legal environment.
In 1991 at Volunteer Park, the one-day festival “Washington Hemp Expo” attracted 500 marijuana supporters (mostly stoners) whose aim was to peacefully protest the government’s prohibition of marijuana. In just three years, the event grew to 5,000 supporters. The event moved to Gas Works Park in 1994 and 15,000 people showed up.
In 1995, Seattle Hempfest ’95 moved again to Myrtle Edwards Park, located on downtown Seattle’s waterfront. Hempfest gained international acclaim and proved that hemp and marijuana reform supporters could gather by the tens of thousands peacefully and responsibly. Organizers took 1996 off to produce the first-ever statewide Hemp Voters Guide. Over the next several years, organizers began to chip away at the War On Drugs policy that prevented the cannabis plant from being utilized in this country.
In 1998, Washington State passed Initiative 692, making it one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana. In 2001, Hempfest expanded from one to two days Hempfest. And in 2003 the event celebrated the passage of I-75, a Seattle city law that makes simple possession the lowest enforcement priority. And in 2011, with attendance continuing it’s aggressive growth, the 20th annual Hempfest added a third day. Signature gatherers were out in force to qualify Citizen’s Initiative 502 for the 2012 ballot, which succeeded in placing the bill on the November 2012 Washington State election ballot.
It is interesting to note that the initiative was very controversial within the Pacific Northwest hemp/cannabis reform community, because of DUI driving provisions, taxes, and provisions on home production. A poll of the core membership of the Hempfest organization found that opinions were evenly divided on I-502. So, the Board of Directors voted for Hempfest to maintain a neutral position on this issue, giving all parties and opinions an equal degree of respect and participation.
As we know, in 2012 , Washington State passed I-502 by a solid margin, making possession of one ounce of cannabis legal for adults in the state. Colorado voters simultaneously passed Measure 54. The passage of these two citizen’s initiatives is the biggest event since prohibition began, and the momentum for continued reform.
Hempfest continues to grow each year garnering national and international attention and bringing together a broad cross-section of people involved in cannabis issues, including police, politicians, health and medical professionals, activists, recreational users, former prisoners held on drug charges, and stellar musical acts who volunteer their performance because they, too believe in the causes at Hempfest. Today, the Hempfest protestival attracts hundreds of thousands of people every summer to Seattle’s waterfront.
Volunteer at Hempfest
Hempfest is organized by a diverse group of volunteers who come together to create the world’s largest annual cannabis law reform event. The core group consists of about 120 people who work year-round to produce Seattle Hempfest, coordinating over 100 crews. The group includes over 1,000 volunteers who show up and make Seattle Hempfest run, including the entire week before the event for setup, and the week after the event for tear-down and cleanup. If you want to join them, check the volunteer page.
When: TBD. As of July 27, 2021, Hempfest has not announced plans for this year on their website or Facebook page.
Usual location: The event spans three Seattle waterfront parks, Centennial Park (formerly Elliott Bay Park), Myrtle Edwards Park, and Olympic Sculpture Park. You can enter the festival from the north at Centennial Park (least congested, but very little available parking) and on the south at Olympic Sculpture park (most congested and longest line, but lots of nearby parking). The new NO WAIT entrance (with great parking potential) is accessible at 3rd Ave W & W Harrison Streets, about four blocks west of Seattle Center. From there, you walk or bike across busy Elliot & Western Avenues using the West Thomas Street Pedestrian and Bicycle Overpass and drop right into Hempfest. How to get there: For more specifics on how to get there and where to park, read about getting to Hempfest.
Admission is free. Tax deductible donations gratefully accepted. There’s plenty of merchandise for sale, which also supports the event (along with sponsors ship and volunteers). For all the ways you can get involved, visit the Hempfest website.
What’s at Hempfest? extensive educational and informational content from some of the nation’s leading experts in the field of marijuana policy reform, plus plenty of festival music, food options, and merchandise for sale (note: no weed).
Drug policy: Note that Hempfest is not some free-for-all. Hempfest supports all lawful cannabis use. Public consumption of marijuana is not permitted under I-502 and is a class C felony. It is an enhanced felony to sell cannabis, cannabis food, or other drugs in a city park. Sales of any cannabis laced food (like brownies) are unlawful. Sales of any illegal substances are unlawful. The Seattle Police and Port Police will be on-site. If you are unclear on any of this or need more information, read the Hempfest rules.