SEATTLE (AP) — A few things will be different at this year's Hempfest, the 22-year-old summer "protestival" on Seattle's waterfront where tens of thousands of revelers gather to use dope openly, listen to music and gaze at the Olympic Mountains in the distance.
The haze of pot smoke might smell a little more like victory, after Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana use by adults over 21. Having won at the state level, speakers will concentrate on the reform of federal marijuana laws.
Oh, and the Seattle police — who have long turned a lenient eye on Hempfest tokers — don't plan to be writing tickets or making arrests. They'll be busy handing out Doritos.
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun," said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, department spokesman and junk-food-dispenser-in-chief. "It's meant to be ironic. The idea of police passing out Doritos at a festival that celebrates pot, we're sure, is going to generate some buzz."
The idea isn't just to satisfy some munchies. The department has affixed labels to 1,000 bags of Doritos urging people to check out a question-and-answer post on its website, titled "Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle." It explains some of the nuances of Washington's law: that adults can possess up to an ounce but can't sell it or give it away, that driving under the influence of pot is illegal, and that — festivals aside — public use is illegal.
Organizers are expecting as many as 85,000 people each day of the three-day event, which begins Friday and is the first Hempfest since voters passed Initiative 502 last fall.
The vote legalized possession of marijuana and set up a system of state-licensed marijuana growers, processors and stores to sell taxed and regulated weed. Officials are still writing rules for the new pot industry, with sales scheduled to begin next year.
Hempfest executive director Vivian McPeak said that despite the state-level legalization, work remains as long as pot is illegal under federal law. The event is free, but McPeak is asking attendees to contribute $10 to offset the $800,000 cost of Hempfest so it can continue next year.