Hemp point?

HEMPFEST, the venerable old lady of pro-pot festivals, is homeless for the first time since 1994. Forced to pull up stakes at Myrtle Edwards Park because of construction, Hempfest organizers wanted to move the fest to Gas Works Park. But the city says the festival will have to take its hemp bracelets and pot-leaf leis elsewhere, thanks to new environmental restrictions that limit the use of Gas Works to one-day events and prohibit booths, signs, and vehicles on the park's delicate, newly planted turf.

All this has left Hempfest without a venue for its 2002 event, normally held in late summer. To resolve the impasse, city officials have suggested Hempfest organizers take a look at Sand Point Magnuson Park, the sprawling, secluded compound that overlooks Lake Washington. What Hempfest organizers see is a security nightmare: a massive, 200-acre park with numerous entrances, public areas, and parking lots. "It won't be easy to contain this event in one location, which means that we are going to be responsible for whatever happens in the park," says Hempfest's Vivian McPeak.

Terri Arnold, special-events coordinator for Magnuson Park, says her main concerns are parking—"just logistically how would those people arrive here and where would they park?"—and security—"both patrolling the perimeter and monitoring people's activity."

But the more pressing concern may become whether View Ridge, the neighborhood surrounding Magnuson Park, will let Hempfest happen there at all. The community, which Arnold describes as a "fairly white conservative neighborhood," hasn't taken kindly to encroachments on its park. Protests about the content of the festival also seem likely; although he had never heard of Hempfest, View Ridge Community Council president Bob Lucas said the festival sounded like "something I don't want to hear about" when contacted last week. But the city's special-events coordinator, Virginia Swanson, says complaints are bound to happen "no matter where" Hempfest is held.

The delay means Hempfest organizers will have to scramble to get their permit in time to promote the festival. At the very least, McPeak says, the city ought to work overtime to push the festival's permit through the process. "The city has to bend over a little bit and accommodate us," he says.

Erica C. Barnett


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