This annual marijuana-law-reform rally, now in its 13th year, is about more than just going to the park and getting stoned with 175,000 of your fellow Seattleites while listening to questionable music. And it's not about hippies in tie-dye: It's perhaps the biggest cultural melting pot you'll see in the Pacific Northwest. Everyone from gangstas to Britney Spears knockoffs from the burbs puts in an appearance, has fun, smokes the green, doesn't get busted by the cooperative SPD (officers relish this easy assignment), and usually ignores the fest's yearly overall political message: Register to vote, vote, and change dumb federal marijuana laws. Either way, the sociocultural variety of humans wandering around the park and sitting on a rocky beach is such a relief from Seattle's white-bread public events.
THE DRUG ISSUE
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• Is pot the new Prozac? MORE
• Your brain on Frappuccino. MORE
• 2004 Hempfest Highlights MORE
This year, the event's oomph will be focused on getting President Bush out of office, and speakers will be making that point incessantly both days. There will be a messianic push to get people to register to vote—so don't be too surprised if you get asked, "Are you a registered voter?" a dozen times before calling it a day. You'll get that message, too, from dozens of speakers (some will be good, some awful) from Hempfest's four stages. It'll be just like being at a revival meeting. Unlike recent years, there is no "star" speaker—and after Woody Harrelson's rambling, incoherent 4:20 speech last year in front of tens of thousands of dewy-eyed fans, that's a welcome change. Nice, too, is an improved music lineup. The Kottonmouth Kings, a hip-hop-hardcore-reggae, pot-positive band, have the 4:20 slot on the main stage on Sunday with Sir Mix-A-Lot belting it out at 7 p.m. the same evening.
One of the drawbacks of the event the last few years has been the ongoing construction in Myrtle Edwards Park. It turned the place into a dust bowl. But this year, it's all green . . . grass.
Hempfest takes place 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Sat., Aug. 21–Sun., Aug. 22, at Myrtle Edwards Park (near Pier 70). Free; www.hempfest.org.