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Are Marijuana Rallies Like Hempfest Still Necessary?

seattle hempfest

An article at mynorthwest.com leading up to the recent 25th Seattle Hempfest suggested that this “may be the last” Hempfest due to the event’s financial problems. The author, KIRO radio host Jason Rantz, opined: “I’m OK if it is.”

A veteran of well over 100 pro-cannabis rallies all around America, I’ve always seen them as an integral part of an effective effort to help end cannabis prohibition in our lifetimes. However, in the states where ganja is now a legal and taxed commodity for adult consumption, large cannabis-centric rallies should pivot from being important protest vehicles over a failed public policy to responsible adult celebrations of cannabis products, in a manner similar to the ubiquitous beer, wine and whiskey festivals. States that have staged large public pro-pot rallies can now help lead the charge.

Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska—your days of hosting rallies against pot prohibition have thankfully come to an end. Logically, the resources and effort once put into such events in these now-reformed states need to be directed to states still gripped by pot prohibition (like Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio)—where the sacred herb is illegal and enforcement continues. The focus of such events should be on legalization, and not on niche issues like medical access or industrial hemp. Flipping these politically important states is a more efficient strategy for reformers than slogging it out for decades in states like Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia and the Dakotas.

A few years ago, Seattle Hempfest branched out with the idea that they could replicate the event’s tremendous success in other states. With legal cannabis sales in Washington State now totaling nearly a billion dollars, Hempfest should consider taking the battle to Austin, Tallahassee, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City, where the staff’s organizing skills and political moxie is really needed these days.

A good example of the pivot from protest to celebration has occurred in Portland, where, for over a decade, the state’s cannabis consumers and producers/sellers have come out of their smoky closets annually for Hempstalk (this past Sept. 24–25), a public protest against the long-failed and unpopular prohibition of pot. Two years after full legalization in the state, and some necessary negotiations with city officials, Hempstalk has morphed from a protest rally into a public celebration of cannabis. That’s the move that other such events should follow.



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