For the first time in the Hempfest's 22-year history, marijuana advocates will be able to light-up in celebration of the legalization of the drug. (Image courtesy Hempfest - Travis Tigner)

What's there to protest at Hempfest with legalization of marijuana in Washington?

There will certainly be a different vibe at this year's Hempfest in Seattle. For the first time in the festival's 22-year history, marijuana advocates will be able to light-up in celebration of the legalization of the drug.

Though it's still illegal under I-502 to smoke pot in public, the Seattle Police Department certainly be busting anyone who lights-up during the three day festival.

They haven't in years. But this year, attendees will smoke knowing they've won, at least at the state level.

"It's going to be 50 percent protest festival and 50 percent victory celebration," says Vivian McPeak, the executive director of Hempfest. "The passage of measure 64 in Colorado and I-502 in Washington state are huge political potential game changers, frankly. They've shattered the myth that prohibition is here forever, that it's impenetrable and so we don't think that this is the time to stop. We think this is the time to ramp it up."

Some people have questioned if the protest festival is still necessary since the tide has turned in its favor. To that McPeak says, as long as marijuana is still illegal under federal law, there's still plenty to protest.

"We think it's time to put marijuana in the same designation as tobacco and alcohol," says McPeak.

Speakers will be focusing on the federal prohibition while celebrating the victory on the state level.

McPeak says one significant change this year will be a close eye on whether attendees are following the guidelines of the state law.

"It's given us a little bit of parameters for what we consider a personal use amount of marijuana," says McPeak. "Anybody coming in with what we consider to be over the I-502 limit, we're going to be turning them away this year."

For example, McPeak is frowning on the business owner who wants to roll a two-pound joint to promote his products.

"Hempfest is a political protest, but it's not felony-fest," says McPeak. "We take possession of the parks. We get permits. We make promises and we intend to keep them."

Organizers will also be handing out "gut check" cards that remind people that there are negative effects from using marijuana.

More than 200,000 people are expected over the three days on the north end of the waterfront at Myrtle Edwards Park.

And don't forget the Seattle Police will be there handing out bags of Doritos with messages reminding people of just what is and what isn't legal under the law.

Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio Reporter
Chris loves the rush of covering breaking news and works hard to try to make sense of it all while telling stories about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
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