By Rick Cusick
Beneath constant sunshine and beside the blue waters of the Puget Sound the 2011 Seattle Hempfest was flawlessly accomplished over three days of record crowds and peaceful protest. The 20th Anniversary of the world’s largest ongoing protestival was celebrated by a stellar line-up of speakers that included the Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, PBS travel host and author Rick Steves, state Representative Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle), state Representative and U.S. Congressional candidate Roger Goodman and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich gave a vibrant speech before ten of thousands of staunch marijuana supporters, comparing cannabis law reform to the civil rights movement, the Arab Spring and more.
“This is how Gandhi's march to the sea cast off the British Empire,” Kucinich said. “This is how America's suffragettes gained for women the right to vote. This is how Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington became a pivotal moment in the history of the civil rights movement.
“Open America!” the Congressman implored, “Show yourself! Mass action! This is why, and how, recent movements for freedom in Tunisia and Egypt gained momentum!"
Hemfest 2011 was the first time the signature event took place over three days and because of the perfect weather it is likely that this year’s edition hosted the largest crowd in its twenty-year history. According to early estimates, the combined attendance over the long weekend likely topped three hundred thousand protestors.
Despite the enormous logistical challenges of producing such a large gathering, Hempfest Executive Director Vivian McPeak told HIGH TIMES, “The best part of the weekend was that no one got hurt.”
The crowds stretched for more than a mile and a half along the scenic shores of Seattle’s Myrtle Edwards Park and, although there were more attendees than ever before, the extra day gave the proceeding a much-needed sense of elbowroom, comfort and space.
“It was a perfect event,” said one long-time veteran. “I’ve come to every Hempfest since it started in 1991 and this was the best one yet!”