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Seattle’s Hempfest may die; we should let it

KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz says it's time to let Hempfest go. (AP)

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of Hempfest, but it may be the last. I’m OK if it is.

Back in July, we learned Hempfest was struggling financially. This was due, in part, to visitors not offering up any financial help.

On their GoFundMe page, for example, Hempfest organizers claim there’s been a “…lack of donations from the community and attendees.” But attendance has also struggled, sometimes impacted by weather. According to The Seattle Times, a first-day rainout last year cost the festival $140,000.

Hempfest likes to label itself a “protestival,” but there’s not too much left to protest; certainly not issues that are easily understandable. You have a day’s worth of speakers, but no one really listens to their messages. Folks are just camped out, either getting high, hanging out, or perusing tables of bongs to purchase. There just doesn’t seem to be much local evidence of interest in the activist nature of Hempfest. Should there be?

Even before legalization, Seattle residents were openly embracing marijuana and police were not getting involved regularly. After legalization, there’s even less interest in the activism side.

Moreover, I wonder if the struggles are simply due to a lack of interest. It’s not a worthwhile event. At most, you can justify spending some time at the event for the people watching. I’ve gone a few years for that but it’s just not all that interesting. I don’t need to go to Hempfest to see some stoners meander; I can see that at almost any park on any weekend.

One thing that could potentially save Hempfest? Pokemon Go! There does seem to be something compelling about watching stoners search for Pikachu. Perhaps that will up the people-watching game.

But short of some major change to Hempfest’s offering, I say, we congratulate them for a history of normalizing marijuana, helping pave the way for legalization, and now they can move on to something more meaningful.

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