Seattle city council member Nick Licata speaking at the 2009 Seattle Hempfest
|Begins||August 17, 2018|
|Ends||August 19, 2018|
|Location(s)||Myrtle Edwards Park, Seattle, Washington, USA|
|Inaugurated||August 1, 1991|
|Most recent||August 18, 2017- August 20, 2017|
|Organised by||Seattle Events, a Non-Profit Corporation|
Seattle Peace Heathens Community Action Group
Seattle Hempfest is an annual event in Seattle, Washington, the world's largest annual gathering advocating decriminalization of marijuana.Vivian McPeak serves as the organization's executive director. Founded in 1991 as the Washington Hemp Expo, a self-described "humble gathering of stoners" attended by only 500 people, and renamed the following year as Hempfest, it has grown into a three-day annual political rally, concert, and arts and crafts fair with attendance typically over 100,000. Speakers have included Seattle city council member Nick Licata, actor/activist Woody Harrelson (2004), travel writer and TV host Rick Steves (2007), (2010), 2012 Green Party speaker Jill Stein, Dallas Cowboys center Mark Stepnoski (2003), and former chief of the Seattle Police Department Norm Stamper (2006). Hempfest has also in recent years attracted such well-known performers as Fishbone (2002), The Kottonmouth Kings (2004),Rehab (2006), and Pato Banton (2007) to its five stages spread throughout Myrtle Edwards Park and Elliott Bay Park, on Seattle's waterfront.
Early Hempfests "featured blatant marijuana smoking"; 60 people were cited for illegal marijuana use at the 1997 Hempfest, and about 20 were arrested the following year. Eventually Hempfest and the police reached a modus vivendi: there was only one arrest in 2001. The political context surrounding marijuana in Seattle and Washington has changed considerably over the years. Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998. In 2003, Seattle passed an initiative that made adult personal use marijuana offenses the city's lowest law enforcement priority.
The 2008 Seattle Hempfest, which took place August 16-17, set a new record for attendance, topping 310,000 people. The volunteers of Seattle Hempfest were awarded the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) award for "Outstanding Cannabis Advocate of the Year Award" on October 17, 2008 at the National NORML Conference for their efforts.
2011 Hempfest speakers included numerous elected officials, among them Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, City Attorney Pete Holmes, a return by Councilman Licata, and Washington State Representatives Mary Lou Dickerson and Roger Goodman.
2013 brought legalization to Washington State and Seattle Hempfest featured performances by Everlast, Hed PE and DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill. As of 2013, the festival has an annual budget of approximately $700,000.
Other Northwest cities with their own festivals called "Hempfest" include Olympia, Washington (Olympia Hempfest, held on the grounds of the 1905-1928 capitol building), Eugene and Salem, Oregon (Emerald Empire Hempfest and Salem Hempfest), Moscow, Idaho (Moscow Hemp Fest),, Missoula, Montana (Missoula Hempfest). The Freedom Rally in Boston is also called Hempfest. and since 2015 there has been an Alaska HEMPFEST that has taken place in Kenny Lake in 2015, Meadow Lakes in 2016 and again in 2018.