CANNABIS CULTURE – “In addition to fighting for freedom, we are now also fighting to keep the Hempfest fire burning.” Says Vivian McPeak, executive director of Seattle’s Hempfest.
“On this, our 29th year of our journey to justice, we have to transition the mission to a new venue online, and we are excited about sharing our Green Renaissance vision of a cannabis-driven, post-COVID future.” – Vivian McPeak, executive director of Hempfest.
Hemp is easily one of the most versatile and cost-effectively produced natural resources at our disposal. It is also one of the most underused and carries a stigma due to its association with marijuana and hashish. Yet, despite this, in 2019 over 100,000 people flocked to Seattle’s biggest “protestival,” HEMPFEST! The world’s largest festival of its kind, Hempfest is a magical event where like-minded people come together annually to advocate for marijuana decriminalization, which would go hand in hand with the increased use of hemp.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to change the way we live and the rules we must follow, festivals have obviously also taken a hit. Hempfest is not immune. Social distancing and masks are required in Seattle in all public places. Many people are taking regulations and self isolation very seriously in an effort to flatten the curve. Even if festivals could operate while ensuring complete safety of their patrons, the ticket sales would simply not be enough to cover overhead.
In 1991, the first Hempfest saw only a gathering of 500 and was then called the Washington Hemp Expo. By 2013, legalization and the continued support and presence of activists, speakers, and special guests across 3 stages had brought this festival’s annual budget up to nearly a quarter million dollars and hundreds of thousands of attendees. Over the years, Hempfest has had its share of legal trouble. Some activists were even arrested and prosecuted for smoking cannabis before it became legal. There was an attempt at banning signs related to the sales of cannabis at the event. But so many positives have come out of this annual celebration of marijuana that the negatives are far overshadowed. People come from far and wide to partake in the camaraderie, visit the booths, hear the music and keynote speakers, and be surrounded by love and tie-dye.
This year instead of having their expected mass gathering at the Seattle waterfront overlooking Puget Sound, they realized that the only way to be able to provide an event safely would be to transition it online. With Hempfest usually being held in mid August, Vivian McPeak, executive director of Hempfest and long-time respected advocate for rights to cannabis, social justice, and peace, announced that instead this weekend would feature a game-changing reveal and explanation of their incredible alternative by hosting their 1st online event on October 10 and 11, 2020. Mr McPeak stated, “This August Reveal will be a taste of what we have in store for our global October Online Extravaganja. At this August sampler we will have a keynote speaker, special musical performances, speaking guests, and interactive activities.”
It is refreshing to know that in this time of uncertainty, activism has not taken a backseat. As climate change continues to melt icebergs, change weather patterns, and raise the Earth’s temperature and ocean levels, it is crucial that we continue to explore alternatives to non-renewable and damaging energy sources. As explained by MrMcPeak, sustainability and looking to the future will be the focus of this year’s online gathering. Hemp is durable, strong, fast growing, and branches very little, which allows for large yields in small areas. It can be turned into clothes, and is also an excellent way to makebiodegradable and recyclable bioplastic. The seeds are rich in magnesium, fiber, and protein, and are an excellent source of edible oil as well, which can in turn be used to make such things as paints or soaps. Hemp milk can provide an excellent source of nutrients and makes a great alternative to dairy without all the hormones or additives of other non-dairy milks. In a direct quote from Hempfest’s press release, “Hemp is superior for super capacity batteries, being more efficient than graphene for hemp fiber battery storage. Hemp-crete concrete is carbon negative, non-toxic to the environment, mold and mildew resistant, and many times lighter than gypsum-based concrete. Hemp board composite aids carbon sequestration by reducing the consumption of tree wood. These are just a few of a vast array of ways that cannabis / hemp can aid in positioning humanity for a more sustainable, regenerative, and just global society.” It truly is a miraculous and game-changing plant.
Despite its incredible benefits, and by definition legally only allowed to have up to 0.3% dry weight THC content, hemp often gets grouped in with controlled substances such as heroin, and up until recent years was illegal for industrial growth and use in the United States. With the passing of the Farm Bill in 2014, and revisions in 2018 and 2019, hemp became legal for growers who put in an application and met very specific requirements. Now in 2020, $16.5 million is being allotted under the Farm BIll for a new program for hemp production. While there are still many hoops to jump through, the US is slowly starting to open its doors to the production and distribution of hemp and hemp products. Activism works, community togetherness works, and festivals like Hempfest, whether they be online or in a single location, continue to promote the legalization of marijuana and hemp as well as their derived products.
It is crucial that as businesses and events around us all fall susceptible to the economic downfall that COVID-19 has brought with it, that we do our best to support those that promote local growth, peaceful living, and the advocacy of our rights as citizens to access the lifesaving medicinal powers and planet-changing products that the cannabis plant has to offer.
This year the festival only requires about $120,000 to operate this year online. For years, it has been a free–to–attend event featuring bands, and still is, but it needs our support. You can help Hempfest emerge from the debt induced by the pandemic by contributing to their fundraising at https://gf.me/u/ymrc6j.
Even a contribution of $5-10 can go a long way in supporting this incredible event that we simply cannot let die and that has been fighting for our rights for decades, and if we want to see it celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, we must work together to keep it alive. I, for one, am very excited for Hempfest’s big reveal and definitely plan to virtually attend this incredible event in October.