Posts Tagged ‘seattle washington’

Seattle Hempfest All Weekend!

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Photo: Jack Rikess
By Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent (From Seattle)
Seattle’s Hempfest opens today. For 20 years, political activists, social progressives, cannabis enthusiasts and the curious has been making the trek out to the Northwest’s longest running cannabis klatch. The festival occupies a twist of land that stretches on the East edge of the sound for a little better than a mile and half.  Really, just a hefty salmon toss down from Pike Place Market.
Expanding from two to three days, with a new Friday opening instead of the usual Saturday beginnings, from what I saw Thursday as the crews were setting up, it’s only getting bigger and better. For three days, there will be knowledgeable speakers talking about issues intrinsic to Washington State, plus non-stop music, great looking food booths and of course, about two hundred thousand attendees, looking for info, music, exotic munchies and a precipitous good time.

Being a veteran of a few of these festivals, as pot leaves are being glued to fences and outside shops and all things marijuana were being erected, I kinda wondered where the “Patient’s Tent” was going to be or as we say in California, the “215 Area.” That place where a festival goer can go when the cotton candy because too much and you’re looking for some cotton mouth now. Y’know, that place where we go to medicate. That place where the heads traditionally gather communally passing around the good Karma. You know, where we go to smoke.
That’s when I was told that there is no marijuana smoking at Hempfest. This may seem a little incongruous but this is also the reason the event has been able to exist for two decades operating during Republican administrations and now our own turncoat, President Obama. Operating a cannabis happening is at best a mountain climb with the uphill politics, a changing climate daily and with only your trusted guide to rely on, an overnight landside can stop you in your tracks.
Even this year’s Hempfest has to jump through hoops brought on by the City of Seattle, mostly a paperwork smokescreen intended on delaying the promoters from opening. But the Pot Gods favored the righteous, and here we are today.
Putting on an event of this nature must come fraught with hassles and unforeseen calamities. At the entrances and exits, rent-a-cops maintain security and control. The local Seattle’s finest, not the coffee, the cops, secure a position above the fray allowing the event’s own security to handle any interior occurrences.
When you think of rock concert security, the Hell’s Angels is what first pops in my head. Bearded fatso’s who favor pool cues as their means for communication. Or maybe ex-cops or old guys from World War II that ran security for hotels or corporations, now retired from that are in charge. I imagine pot-bellies, low slung pistols in a drooping holster, maybe a southern accent. Guys who are more comfortable working a state fair and now have been begrudgingly brought in to “work” with the hippies.
Two hundred thousand guests can be a handful to say the least. I had to meet who was in charge of the safety of the two hundred grand. I mean, the water right there! What could go wrong?
I walked over to the security tent. There was a kid out front with khaki shorts, security team t-shirt with a peaceful smile and a radio about to be keyed. Before he could get to his job, I interrupted him, asking if I could speak to who is in charge.
He said, “That be me.”
Really.
“Really.”
Meet Mitch Draper, the 24-year old, who’s in charge of yours and my good time.
My first question was, c’mon, Mitch, you’re the boss?
Then my ageism is snubbed out like Mexican swag.
“Well, this is my 10th year of working the festival. I started out doing this and that, but in the last years, I started with security, and now…I’m the boss.”
Right away his even keel demeanor tells you how partly he got this job. But there are details. So I asked Mitch my “burning” question.
What do you do about people smoking pot on the grounds?
“Most people are really cool and considerate. We give them a choice if they’re caught smoking on the Hempfest’s grounds. You can either dump out your stuff right now into this barrel that we bring to them, or we call in SPD.
The barrel?
“We have a huge barrel that we keep inside the perimeter. Once we catch someone and they choose the barrel. They dumped their stuff out and them before their eyes, we pour chlorine bleach all over everything.”
Is it mostly marijuana?
The 24-year old Army reservist went on, “We get acid, ecstasy, pills and other junk. But it all goes into the barrel.”
Just then some of the other members of the security team came out to where we were.
Not trying to be a smart ass, I asked these obvious older than 24 guys, what it was like to take orders from Mitch.
“So what’s it like being in security with Mitch? Taking orders from a kid?”
A big guy logging in at over a couple of bills corrected me right away. “We are the safety team; we don’t like being called security. That’s for the Seattle cops or TSA that handles some of our external posts. And that’s a stupid question. Mitch is great and a great boss. His age has nothing to do with his ability.”
Another gentleman, who looks like he could be your cousin William from Indiana, second the Big Guy’s opinion that Mitch is in control and sets the right tone for this kind of event.
All of Safety Team seems so mellow and youthfully exuberant that the three day festival may happen possibly with sun and not the expected rain, belittles the fact that Cousin Willy is actually ex-special forces and most of the rest of the team, even in their twenties
So guys, what does the Safety Team look out for. What are your biggest headaches?
Mitch said right away, “Distribution. People doing business or smoking or even giving some away. It’s all a no-no.”
Then comes the barrel?
Mitch nods his head yes. “There’s always someone who shows up thinking he can make some bucks selling here. Sorry, no.”
The Big Guy says crowds can be a challenged. “With this many people, some of them get a little crazy. We just do basic crowd control and it always seems to work out.”
One of the guys who hadn’t spoken yet said, “I hate the drunks. Even Seattle Police will tell you that they rather deal with the stoners at Hempfest. Their mellow and listen. The drunks are drunks. They want to fight or just cause trouble.”
Cousin Willy also mentioned dehydration. “Dehydration is a huge problem. People forget to drink water at these things. Got to stay hydrated. That goes for staff too. People working hard, we remind the staff to keep refreshing. We try to stay proactive.”
Any problems from past years stand out?
“We had a drunken naked guy swim out to the channel one year,” Mitch stated matter-of-factly. “We called the Coast Guard right away. They got him. He became their problem.”
At that point, my girlfriend, who I’ll call ‘Yoko,’ asked Mitch if the compound that the Safety Team is housed in, the Draper Compound. Is it named after you?”
Mitch answered humbly. “No, the compound is named after my Dad, Merle Draper. He was a long time cannabis activist in Washington before he passed.”
A second generation cannabis kid.
Mitch’s Dad is famous up here in these parts but Mitch didn’t expound and I didn’t pry. But I knew if he was my kid, I’d be sure as damn proud of him as I’m sure his father is.
While talking to them a call came on the radio about some street people on the outside of the gate harassing some people. I decided to tag along.
Four face-tattooed hobos, two inches away from the front main gate were smoking the ends of street-flatten cigarettes while trying to sell whatever they had on a blanket to the walkers going by.
Right away the hobos got their dandruff flying, accusing everyone but themselves that the others were the source of causing problems, not them.
Mitch and the Safety Team reasoned with them. Talked to them in low gentle tones. In five minutes they were gone.
Mitch and his guys are pros.
Have a great and safe Hempfest!

 
Photo: Jack Rikess

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Photo: Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco.

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at jackrikess.com.

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco.

Seattle Committee Passes Bill to License Cannabis Dispensaries

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Photo: Steve Elliott ~alapoet~

​A Seattle City Council panel on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure licensing and regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

The ordinance now moves to the full City Council for consideration on Monday, July 18, reports Chris Grygiel at the Seattle P.I. But prior to the vote by the Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee, one attorney told the council members that the ordinance won’t stand up in court.
“I want to applaud the City Council for taking a look at this matter … unfortunately I must urge you to reconsider your proposal,” said activist/attorney Douglas Hiatt, who said he represents medical marijuana patients. “Go back to the drawing board. I do not believe there is any way you can pass your ordinance will stand under the law. The state’s controlled substances act pre-empts the field … Marijuana is still illegal … It’s illegal for all purposes, you cannot regulate an illegal business without a specific authority.”

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Photo: Douglas Hiatt
Attorney Douglas Hiatt: “If you pass this, I will take you to court and do my very best to knock it out”
​ When Gov. Chris Gregoire line-item vetoed a bill earlier this year which would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries statewide, she nixed language that would have allowed the Council to pass its own regulations, according to Hiatt.
“If you pass this, I will take you to court and do my very best to knock it out,” Hiatt told the Council.
Earlier this year, the Washington Legislature passed a medical marijuana bill, but Gregoire vetoed most of it, claiming she was worried the law would put state workers at risk of federal prosecution, even though that’s never happened in any medical marijuana state.
Washington has allowed patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana since voters approved it in 1998, but the federal government doesn’t recognize any medicinal use for cannabis. The bill that passed in the Legislature was intended to set clearer regulations on dispensaries, establish a licensing system, and institute a patient registry with arrest protection.
Gregoire vetoed provisions which would have licensed and regulated marijuana dispensaries. She also vetoed the provision which would have created a patient registry under the Department of Health.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, along with the city attorney and King County’s executive and prosecutor had all supported establishing a legal framework for medical marijuana.
The ordinance before the Seattle City Council, sponsored by Councilman Nick Licata, would require medical marijuana dispensaries to get business licenses, pay taxes and fees and meet city land use codes. The shops would also be subject to the city’s Chronic Nuisance Property Law, which means if there were repeated complaints about their activity, they could be fined or shut down.
The “open use and display of cannabis” would be prohibited at the dispensaries.
Not all people testifying before the Council on Wednesday thought the effort was in vain. A University District resident urged the Council to come up with zoning rules so that neighborhoods like his aren’t “overrun” with dispensaries.
To read medical marijuana documents presented to the Council, click here and here.
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