The Pacific Northwest's largest cannabis-centric protest festival, or “protestival,” returns in 2019.
Hempfest welcomes more than 100,000 attendees to Seattle's picturesque waterfront each year, making it one of the most well-known cannabis events around the world. From Aug. 16-18, 2019, Hempfest takes over Olympic Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards Park, both near the bustling Pike Place Market. This dense tourist epicenter of downtown Seattle has seen massive growth in recent years; the cityscape has transformed profoundly since the festival was founded in 1991.
Hempfest is one of the pioneering cannabis protest festivals. It has brought the stoners, hemp aficionados, and cultivators to Seattle to learn about and advocate for hemp. The festival's curation has evolved over the last three decades from a humble civil rights protest to the modern music-filled, activism-focused weekend-long event it is today. Festival goers can expect many hemp product purveyors, Washington and Oregon-based cannabis companies, food vendor booths, interactive spaces, cooking demonstrations, speakers, and even one official awards ceremony.
But as time has gone by and Seattle's coveted waterfront property gets gobbled up, the logistics setting up Hempfest has grown more difficult. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board said earlier in 2019 that Hempfest sponsors can't advertise openly, to which Hempfest filed a lawsuit claiming it “actively dissuade licensed marijuana businesses from participating at Seattle Hempfest,” according to the Seattle Times. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board then revised its ruling. Also, festival organizers started a petition to the city to allow them to have access to a road and parking lot they had used in years passed, but is now being denied by Expedia Group, the travel search engine giant.
But the show will go on. To stick it to the proverbial man, the festival has taken a strong stance on social equity this year in the form of an Expungement Clinic. People will also be signing up new voters and encouraging all Hempfest goers to register to vote.
Here are three reasons to go to Hempfest in 2019.
1). First-Ever Expungement Clinic with Attorneys on Deck
For the first time, the festival will help people in Washington with non-violent cannabis offenses clear the slate and begin the process of expungement of their records for minor cannabis convictions. Hempfest will have attorneys on-site on Aug. 16 from 1-4 p.m., and on Aug. 17 from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Find the Expungement Clinic behind the giant Hemposium Stage Tent. While the focus is on convictions in the state of Washington, Hempfest organizers offer to help people from other states to connect with their local volunteers in their home states.
"Unfortunately, there are no expungements allowed for Federal records, which is ridiculous but true," stated Aaron Pelly, an attorney with the cannabis-focused law firm Cultiva Law, in an email to Weedmaps News.
“Despite the reforms that have taken place in multiple states national arrests for cannabis are still going up each year. It is time to bring the pot prisoners home. Let's quit wasting resources on their incarceration,” Hempfest Executive Director Vivian McPeak said in a statement.
2. Badass Musical Acts and Panels
Hempfest has more than 100 performers and speakers gracing three stages over the course of the Aug. 16-18 weekend. Musical acts to expect this year include Sky Cries Mary and founding N.W.A. hip-hop artist DJ Yella. An indigenous opening and closing ceremony will be performed by Sacred Water. Guest speakers include cannabis industry activists, authors, and entrepreneurs including Jesce Horton, Carolyn “Mountain Girl” Garcia, “the Dagga Couple” Myrtle Clarke and Jules Stobbs of South Africa, and Colorado medical marijuana patient and activist Coltyn Turner.
Hempfest will also be the place to celebrate with a ceremony for the 2019 Dope Magazine Industry Awards. Find it on the Seeley Black Stage, from 6-8 p.m. on Aug. 17.
3. Afterparties Galore
The Hempfest goes until 8 p.m., but the festivities just begin. Dope Magazine's epic Golden Ticket Party kicks off the Hempfest weekend with a bang with a VIP party on Aug. 16. The official Hempfest Afterparty is hosted by David Tran on Aug. 17 at Amber lounge and restaurant with no cover charge. Respect My Region also has a Lit Lounge afterparty on Aug. 17. The Hempfest closing party is set for Aug. 18 at the J&M Sports Cafe in Pioneer Square.
Feature image: Once a protest festival, Hempfest in Seattle continues to stay relevant even after the legalization of cannabis in Washington by offering music, food, and appearances by hemp and marijuana companies. The 2018 festival shown had more than 100,000 attendees, and organizers expect just as many for the Aug. 16-18, 2019, event. (Photo by Rocky Grimes/Hempfest)