Who would have thought the organizers of the Seattle Hempfest, the world's largest marijuana law reform rally, would have to take legal action against the progressive city of Seattle and one of its art museums? But that's exactly what happened Monday, when Hempfest announced it was suing the city over its failure to process the permit application in a timely manner and its failure to address transportation and access issues caused by construction at Seattle Art Museum.
Hempfest organizers say they are running out of time and cannot wait any longer for permits and resolution of the access issue. The permit application for the event was filed on January 3, and the city should have replied within 60 days, but has yet to do so. Nor has it arrived at a transportation plan that addresses the crucial access issue.
"Since the late fall of 2005, Hempfest has been meeting regularly with Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and city officials to resolve all issues and allow adequate space for pedestrian access, as well as access for police and fire officials. Public safety is a top priority for Hempfest," organizers said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. "Construction of the Olympic Sculpture Park is in risk of jeopardizing public safety and depriving the public use of a major park," said Vivian McPeak, Executive Director of the Seattle Hempfest and plaintiff. "After months of negotiations with the City and SAM, I am confident that there is room for both the Sculpture Park and Hempfest," he added.
Organizers were quick to clarify that Hempfest will take place. Period. This year's event, set for August 19 and 20, features dozens of musical acts and speakers. This year's line up includes former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and Seattle City Council President Nick Licata (not to mention DRCNet associate director David Guard). Hundreds of exhibitors will sell hemp wares and dozens of organizations, including the ACLU and NORML and DRCNet, will recruit for their organizations and advocate an end to the drug war.