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Hempfest by Kristen Mann

By admin | January 5, 2010

With the August sun sparkling on the water, Gayle and I set off to make the International Hempology 101 Society’s debut at Seattle Hempfest. This iconic “protestival” has been held for 18 years and running, and has grown from a gathering of 500 people to the upwards of half a million through the gates this year. Nothing prepared us for the breathtaking magnitude of the festival, or the awesomeness of the people we met. The

party began as we walked into Myrtle Edwards park, right in the heart of downtown. Despite some very real reminders that we were in a foreign country, we were first confronted with a fairly typical cannabis scene Vendors were set up with food, glassware, and hemp clothing. The first booth that we encountered was Essential Hemp. They were offering 100% hemp clothing, running shoes, and even hemp insulation. Denny Finneran, owner of Crucial Hemp, travelled to China to see the hemp that he purchases being grown, harvested, and processed. In a panel discussion about the viability of hemp as a domestic crop, entitled Hemp for Victory, he spoke about entire villages that grew vast mono-cultures of hemp. The prevalence and quantity of hemp grown in China is tied to the fact that it is has never been outlawed there, and is encouraged by the government. This leads to very low cost hemp textile, but it is mostly kept within the country for use as paper, rope, and clothing. Other speakers at Hemp for Victory included: Dr. Bronner’s Soap, who is based out of America and wants to use local products (currently they purchase hemp oil for their soaps from Canada); Anndrea Hermann who works for Hemp Oil Canada Inc. based out of Manitoba; and George Rohrbacher, a local farmer who wants to be able to grow hemp and therefore be able to compete in the world market. All of these hard working individuals fight every day to be able to grow a plant without any intoxicating effects. State law in Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia has been changed in the last couple of years to allow industrial hemp production or research, but the feds issue nearly-impossible-to-obtain permits to grow hemp and supersedes those state laws because it looks like marijuana. Hemp is one of the most versatile crops and can grow in a wide range of conditions. In the early days of America’s independence it was mandated that farmers in all 13 states could even pay taxes with hemp. According the the US Department of Agriculture, “In 1916, the U.S. Government predicted that by the 1940′s all paper would come from hemp and that no more trees need to be cut down. Government studies report that 1 acre of hemp equals 4.1 acres of trees. Plans were in the works to implement such programs.” In 1850, the state of Kentucky alone grew more than 40,000 tons of hemp per year. Today, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia allow farmers to grow hemp, although this is still superseded by federal law. Despite these draconian regulations, many have been planting crops and just recently the DEA headquarters received a visit from some gardeners. Activists, including the president of Dr. Bronners’ soap, were arrested planting hemp in the lawn. As you can see, it is very important to American farmers to be able to grow hemp in a legal atmosphere. Other vendors sold boots that were made from a hemp blend with recycled tires as the sole, and duffel bags, purses, and backpacks that were made from 100% hemp or a hemp-polyester blend and come with a special hidden pocket lined with a smellproof bag. The variety and uniqueness of hemp products for sale at Hempfest was unlike I have ever seen before, although we were a little disappointed to see many booths that were not empowered by hemp In addition to the actual “hemp” aspect of Hempfest, there were many activists working on both the medical and and the marijuana aspect of the cannabis movement. People we met included, Joanne Mckee, a truly astounding woman who founded the Green Cross of Seattle, back in 1993. According to their website, “Green Cross Patient Co-Op ( GCPC ) is a true cooperative of Washington State medical marijuana patients and caregivers whose mission is to assist each other through education, information, counselling, support, verification, and registry. The GCPC is open to Washington State residents that present a bonafide need for medicinal cannabis on the advice of their physician, under RCW69.51(a).” Joanne now does patient advocacy for people in Washington State and across the country with her unique brand of smiles, determination, and clear spoken wisdom. Joanne showed us the most wonderful collection of t-shirtsfrom the movement that she has been gifted over the years. The Green Cross hosted the patient smoking tent at HempFest this year, providing a safe refuge out of the sun where certified patients could consume their medicine, while also being able to access the binders of information Joanne had available.

Right next door to the Green Cross Tent was the legendary Emperor of Hemp, Jack Herer. It was such an honour to meet such a great man. His kind and soft spoken nature was forthcoming. Jack was educating about hemp before I was born. He is passionate and set in his convictions, and very willing to pause his never ending lineup to take a picture or a bong rip with a fan. He vowed several decades ago to “work every day, until pot was legal, we were dead or we turned 84. Then we could quit.” Shortly after Hempfest, Jack collapsed backstage at the Portland Hempstalk festival, and was rushed to hospital. Although Jack is slowly recovering from his heart attack in a nursing home, he still needs our love and prayers. Please send Jack a cosmic hug the next time you spark up. One of the panels that I was most interested in hearing was called Yes We Cannabis: The hope of the DARE generation. As a victim of police propaganda parading as education, also known as DARE, I wanted to hear about a better way to inform young people about the effects and uses of drugs. The panel actually focused on how the war on drugs is affecting my peer group, and highlighted some the the young heroes coming out this year. The Moss family spoke about how their father’s arrest for marijuana conspiracy, even though he wasn’t with his friends that were caught at the border, had affected their childhood. It was heartbreaking to listen to these girls describe what it is like to visit your dad through a window at a jail, and to never have him around for events like birthdays, graduation, or Christmas mornings. We also heard from Ian Barry. Ian achieved his fame this spring when he presented a 15 page paper at his school on the merits of legalizing marijuana. Ian is an honour student, and although the paper was thoroughly researched and written with a style beyond his years, it was not the professionalism of his paper that made waves, but the small joint the he pulled out half way through—lit, smoked, and then the roach eaten. He was later taken to the principal’s office where he was handcuffed, arrested, taken to the cop shop, and charged

with possession of THC resin for the container that he had carried the joint in. This was after he spoke in advance to his teachers, who assured him the punishment would be taken care of by the school. This vast overreaction caught the attention of his local media, and shortly after Ian’s story was featured in High Times. This classic story of an intelligent young person severely persecuted for consuming cannabis circulated quickly. What really tied me to his story was that he knew what to expect, and tried to demonstrate the harms of prohibition in the light of the efficacy and versatility of the cannabis plant. The best part of Hempfest is truly the magnitude of it. It has grown from a couple dozen people gathering to over a half million. The park where it is held extends along the water front for about 3 kilometres (1.5 miles) but is bordered by train tracks. The gates had to be pushed back several times this year just to allow enough room for crowd movement. “FURTHER” the Merry Prankster’s bus made an appearance, complete with Mountain Girl. I met Danny Danko from High Times, Mason Tvert from SAFER which ran the campaign to promote marijuana use over alcohol in Colorado, and all the branches of NORML showed up as well. The whole event is managed by volunteers, and after the festival the beach and grounds are cleaned up for the 2 days so that the park is left cleaner than before the protestival. It was amazing the amount of garbage that half a millions people can leave behind. Gayle and I picked up 3 or more bags of garbage off a single beach. The many people helping out made the job a lot easier, and defiantly more fun. I was so impressed by the countless people who worked through the night to sort out garbage, compost, and recycling, to make sure that not only the site of the festival was beautiful, but also done sustainably. Hempfest is a hotbed of cannabis activists and we were truly blessed to be surrounded by such amazing individuals!!!

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