HEMPFEST ’09: The Biggest And Best Of All Time

By George Rohrbacher, NORML Board Member, medical marijuana patient

WOW! The glorious Seattle waterfront at Myrtle Edwards Park was wearing its mid-August best! Saturday was broken clouds with sun in the high 70’s, Sunday, it was clear and 82. Sweeeet. Every tattoo, piercing and cleavage in the tri-state area that needed an airing, got one at Hempfest along the Emerald City waterfront this past weekend. Who knows how many hundreds of thousands hempsters were there? The park was packed beyond belief on Saturday. Over the night, the Hempfest staff changed the routing at over a dozen different foot-traffic choke points, so on Sunday, the crowd flowed so well it seemed the numbers were down…but, never fear, by 4:20 Sunday afternoon the 2-mile long city park was packed to capacity, like one huge happy sausage, all 5 stages rocking at once in a vast sea of people, all of whom who have assembled because they want to free a plant.
Yes We Cannabis.
As the potent Seattle Fog emanating from the Hempfest crowd slowly rolled out to sea each day to meet the stunning beauty of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains beyond, the scene  made me proud to be an American. Good golly, Miss Molly, Hempfest really rocked last weekend!
Hempfest! America’s greatest all-volunteer event.  It takes over a thousand volunteers to bring this wonderful beast to life each year. With love and devotion those volunteers blow life into this dream, just as they have every year for the past 18 years—some giving only a few hours of their time picking up trash after Hempfest is done, or some like the late Share Parker who a few years back mortgaged her home just to keep Hempfest going. Hempfest has grown and grown to the point that this year, even though the event was barely promoted, this was the biggest Hempfest, EVER.
HEMPFEST—the third weekend in August, on the Seattle waterfront, it’s fun, it’s free, it’s clean, it’s safe, no ticket required! Hempfest has become the goal of an annual summer migration of thousands and thousands of Americans. Seattle Hempfest has become an organic force like a salmon run….
So much to see and do at Hempfest—a few things that stood out to me this year:
*Hempfest expanded north of the Grain Elevators with great effect, adding about ¾ of a mile of new territory that was filled to the brim with hempsters. The Seely Memorial Stage’s new location created a great new venue for speakers and bands, a place you can get eye-to-eye contact with about 3-4,000 people, a very intimate experience compared with the Main stage’s audience of the ten’s of thousands.
*I listened to a Hemposium panel of marijuana activists that included Tonya Davis, a wheelchair-bound woman from Ohio.

As Tonya spoke of the horrible physical and sexual abuse she endured as a child, it brought me to tears. Tonya had been told to “Shut up” more often than she’d been called her own name, but now that she’d become a marijuana activist, Tonya refused to, “Shut up”, one minute longer. Such bravery, such heart. Thank you, Tonya.
*The medical research on cannabis continues to open new horizons. If you want to get seriously excited about the science behind why cannabis is so good for you, Google Dr. Bob Melamede, prof., Univ. of Colo, Colorado Springs.
*O’Shaughnessy’s The Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice, their Summer ‘09 issue is out! Get a copy! Perfect for any doctor wanting solid clinical information about the use of cannabis in their practice, or for the informed patient wanting to be more informed or get their doctor more informed about cannabis as a medicine. Editor Fred Gardner may be contacted to distribute or contribute to O’Shaughnessy’s.
And, of course, there was so much good music I don’t know where to begin.
Hempfest. Huge, happy, helpful, harmonic. You all made America proud of itself last weekend.

George Rohrbacher, NORML Board of Directors
Speech for Hempfest ‘09
What a year for cannabis, since we last talked here at Seattle Hempfest…Hempfest, the greatest all-volunteer event in America…also the largest pro-cannabis rally in the world, a protest-ival of grand proportions! Give a loud round of applause to the Hempfest volunteers; the people who truly make this happen! And, Help ‘em out, all of you need to volunteer and pick up a little trash on your way out of here tonight. And say, Why don’t you become an official Seattle Hempfest volunteer and earn one of those cool t-shirts!!? What a powerful thing that would be, 100,000 new cannabis volunteers!
And talking about numbers, last October, America arrested its 20-millionth person on marijuana charges! That’s 20-million people arrested for pot from Tricky Dick Nixon to today!! Sickening!!! Well, in November, We the People, by a big margin, elected ourselves a brand-new president, a President pledged for Change! The November elections also gave the people of Michigan medical marijuana by a 63% to 37%, a landslide vote! America’s very first tax and regulate cannabis bill was introduced in the California State Legislature.
New Years brought in the “Michael Phelps bong hit heard ‘round the world”…What???? The planet’s greatest athlete is using pot???? Oh my God!!!?? You mean, Michael Phelps, the Internet/tabloid pothead-posterboy? He didn’t become a couch-potato-slacker/loser like our government has been telling us was going to happen to all pot users. They’ve been telling us those lies for decades. With Michael Phelps, exactly the opposite happened, for the love of water, that ‘bong-hittin’ pothead-loser’ became the most decorated champion in the history of Olympic sports!! A Paradigm shift of monumental proportions is going on here! Maybe our government hasn’t been telling us the truth about POT, after all? What do you think?
February brought the great good news from Obama’s new Attorney General that President Obama’s campaign promises were now Federal policy, that the Federal Government would stop raiding marijuana dispensaries in states with laws that made medical pot legal. That means us…right here in Washington State…the Feds have called off their dope dogs from our medical marijuana!
In April, on 420, NORML launched America’s first ever TV pro-marijuana ad campaign…NORML’s TV ad message: “It’s time to legalize marijuana” played in millions of homes across America, and was mentioned in The New York Times front-page story on 4/20, the pot enthusiast’s organic holiday.
In June, Rhode Island’s state legislature over-rode their governor’s veto by a vote of 102-to-3, what a political Ass-Kicking…passing medical marijuana dispensary legislation.
California’s Board of Tax Equalization, mid-summer, released the findings that by their calculations, taxed and regulated, legal marijuana would bring California’s governments an estimated $1.4 BILLION dollars of NEW taxes every year…billions in tax revenue that are desperately needed to keep their neighborhood parks and libraries open. For years, NORML has been asking the government to tax us cannabis users like normal citizens…And, that of course, doesn’t take into account the $15 BILLION spent every year on marijuana prohibition enforcement, money that would be much better spent protecting battered women, finding lost children and solving crimes. The message about how expensive marijuana prohibition is, and the nasty ramifications of the War on Drugs is finally getting through to the American public for the very first time in our lifetimes!
Then…something unbelievably important happened a couple weeks ago: on July 23rd,for the first time in the history of their publication, The Wall Street Journal did a front-page article on the pot business! They said essentially: Now that the Federal raids have ended, medical cannabis is becoming a normal business. Woa, Nellie, bar the doors, when the WSJ says that there is “gold in them thar ills”, look out!!!
I want you to think about this for a second: about three weeks ago, the world’s premier economic newspaper declared that medical marijuana is: “OPEN FOR BUSINESS”. This story was read by millions and millions of the world’s biggest economic movers and shakers, everyone of whom are on the lookout for what is going to be the “next new thing”, and you can bet thousands and thousands of those well-heeled entrepreneurs have already started making their own cannabis business plans, potentially effecting the future of marijuana’s economic and legal landscape. The Wall Street Journal declared it loud and clear: the legal marijuana gold rush has begun! With this kind of attention, it won’t be long before there is a medical cannabis dispensary in your neighborhood shopping mall!! Now, that’s what I call progress!
It is your job and my job to keep up the pressure, to keep to keep this CHANGE rolling on.
Well, how are we going do it???
The Answer: Get loud, get active, JOIN NORML, volunteer!   THANK YOU

0 thoughts

  1. One of my fave moments: I approach George backstage at Seeley and he says, “Is it my imagination, or did they expand Hempfest this year? I don’t ever remember going past the grain elevators!”
    For a moment I thought of saying, “Naw, George, it’s always been this long – I think you’re too high.”
    Another great moment: my wife asks George whether I’m doing a good job at NORML. “Are you kidding?!?,” he says, “we needed this guy eight years ago!”
    Thanks, George! Compliments like that keep me going, especially from people like you whom I respect so highly. (Well, I do everything highly…)
    Fantastic speech, by the way, especially the line “Michael Phelps – The Un-Couch Potato!” You’re one of the few who can inform and entertain a huge crowd like Hempfest.

  2. George,
    Once again, a great pleasure and honor to have you out. Here’s to the year it is a celebration as opposed to a protest. I think it is going to be soon.

  3. This is awesome news! The fact that hempfest was bigger means the word is spreading. The government lies! As if we didnt know that,but the more eyes that are opened the better, the sooner we can end this madness and have a REALLY big hempfest!

  4. My fellow Norml associates, neighbors, and countrymen. It is indeed a pleasure to see such a turnout for Hempfest. I am humbled by the presence of such a great movement, and encouraged as citizen of this great nation. This is the age of reason. It is incredible to such a large mass of people saying in one voice “we will not go quietly into the night! We wont lie down like dogs without a fight! We will prevail! Today we declare our independence! Today we declare our right to survive!” This is what our country is about. Being able to freely express ourselves without the fear of being lashed by our king, fear of retribution for our beliefs, or fear of retaliation for our opinions.
    Remember this day as the world stopped. When people came together freely, and extended their arms open to their fellow man, and embraced them as a person. For far to long we all have suffered from the atrocities of our own government. We have been jailed, we have been beaten, and we have suffered an unimaginable terror for no purpose other than to fulfill the greed of others. It is our right to stand up to those that mean to harm us. It is our right as citizens of this great nation to bring our claborative fists together, and fight our way through the masses.
    I implore all those that read this to pass our message along. To your neighbors, to your friends, to your family, and to anyone that cares to listen. There is no power in this world greater than the American voice. We shall not rest till our people are free, we shall not rest till our voice is heard, and most importantly, we shall not rest till justice has prevailed.
    Brothers and sisters, keep up this great fight! We cannot loose if we all fight together! God bless this movement, god bless those that are prisoners of this war, and god bless our country.
    With my love, keep up the good fight! Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!”
    Chris Akes

  5. Wow, amazing they keep expanding it and even MORE people show up every year! I wonder what the official guesstimate was this year?

  6. Wish I could have been there. It is heartening to know so many fellow American patriots are willing and able to avail themselves of God’s will for people to live in freedom with liberty as acknowledged and cited in the Constitution of the United States.

  7. Bring these numbers to Washington DC and they can’t look the other way, it’s time to move on DC with a pieceful, large group and the press will have to cover it. I’m in Tennessee and didn’t hear a thing about this until I read this artical. We need this kind of involvment nation wide, bring it East and make them listen.


  9. Last I heard the Mexicans were upset. Because our congress was holding up their millions in aid to Mexico to keep the drug war going. These billions of our money are paid every year to insure they follow our policy. It has caused turmoil in their country. WE ARE THE REASON ALL THE PEOPLE IN MEXICO HAVE DIED…..Just to insure our drug war goes on and on and the billions are divided between some very well off corporations. And of course the kick back millions to our lawmakers. The ones that made THC legal for them to make Marinol. Yet if you use natural THC (cannabis) you go to jail…

  10. I’ve known about the Hempfest but unfortunately could not attend. It does makes me very hopeful reading this article and knowing that so many people have made the travel to support our great cause.
    I also have to agree with Mike#11 We need this kind of crowd in DC. I know Green Army was recently in DC but if we could bring Hempfest type of crowd, we won’t be ignored.
    Thank you everyone who contributes to this great cause and all the volunteers that made Hempfest better than ever this year.

  11. DAMN! I wish I was there. I hope i can save money for the next one. Those pic look like Woodstock or something really close to it lol. I believe Woodstock could happen again, but this time it will be a lot different. I cant really describe it but I have a good feeling it could happen……

  12. First and foremost THANK YOU NORML. Perseverence will pay off. To all of the people involved with Hempfest terrific job. To all of those that support NORML and our quest for freedom I say keep up the good fight. Our numbers are starting to show. This will be a long and very hard fought battle and we need all of you to be ready for the long haul. The people that oppose us in this fight are very well financed and greedy as hell. They are not going to watch their empires go up in smoke if you know what I mean. I think the economic reality is starting to sink in. I’m still very surprised that our first President of color is willing to support a policy that is based on racial prejudice and greed. Shame on Obama for not having the guts to do what FDR did and lift prohibition. The truth rolls on!!!

  13. First off, Russ I agree with George, you are doing a wonderful job. I look forward to the stash everyday, keep up the fine work.
    I am seriously thinking about trying to create a hempfest east here in NC. I am going to start doing the legwork trying to find a venue, laws and such, so on.
    I ask anyone reading if you have any helpful ideas for me?
    Thanx, everyone

  14. Hi # 10!!!!!
    Yes, In April, there was a lot of talk about this happening, though VERY QUIETLY. This explains why I found it on the internet and why it has yet to be braodcast on national TV.
    My thoughts are this: Obama met with Calderone last week. SURELY this issue was mentioned, if not discussed.
    The fact that Calderone signed the bill – in possible defiance of Obama – sends a clear signal:
    Obama is willing to let Mexico be a guinea pig – “lets see what happens, and if all goes well, then we let CA legalize it, tax it – and then we wait some more to see what happens”.
    OBAMA is a POKER PLAYER. This is a DOCUMENTED fact. Poker players have a unique insight into personal behaviour – and deception.
    Obama is on record that cannabis should be at least decriminalized, but then again, he has a wife and 2 daughters whom pissing off would likely mean divorce.
    What would you do, if you had a hot wife and 2 beautiful daughters? (I’m white, male, 50, and celibate for 20 years now….)
    Side note:
    My sister is really pissing me off lately (she’s a wine drinker)and I told her if she did not at least address this issue intelligently, that I would “out her”.

  15. Hemp Fest is a great thing for the West coast, But here in Tennessee we don’t even hear about this type thing. We need to take these numbers to places that get no attention and shake things up! Big turnouts country wide will let them know this is NOT just a west coast thing. The people here in Tennessee that use are still afraid to speak out, most of my friends won’t even write their cnogressman for fear of retrobution. To make this happen it needs to be a combined effort all across the nation.

  16. # 24 Mike
    This is what I’m saying. We need to come together to make an east coast presence. I’m in the Raleigh area, progressive but still thumping the bible pretty loudly.
    I am trying to find a free place to do this but the options aren’t there.
    At this point all I can find is venues that would require charging admission, that defeats the purpose. I will keep working and I’m looking for people that would like to join on and help.

  17. #24 Mike Says:
    August 22nd, 2009 at 12:03 pm
    Hemp Fest is a great thing for the West coast, But here in Tennessee we don’t even hear about this type thing
    RE: Mike,
    – Perhaps your state,
    (the MOONSHINE STATE), would be MORE
    receptive to the idea…IF retailers promised
    to only sell cannabis grown IN STATE, and
    NOT from California…LOL!!!

    😉 😆

  18. retrobution???
    RE: Mike…
    Not to sound overly-harsh…

    Here’s MY pro-potRETRIBUTION!!!
    With all of the computer-based,
    web-based spell-check resources…
    – If we don’t FULLY-UTILIZE these…
    Who’s going to take us seriously…?!?!?

  19. #25 If there is anything I can help with let me know,I’m ready to move on this thing.
    #27 thanks for the schooling, this is about working together not spell check

  20. NeuroGenesis1:29 Says:
    August 22nd, 2009 at 10:45 pm
    #24 Mike Says:
    August 22nd, 2009 at 12:03 pm
    Hemp Fest is a great thing for the West coast, But here in Tennessee we don’t even hear about this type thing
    RE: Mike,
    – Perhaps your state,
    (the MOONSHINE STATE), would be MORE
    receptive to the idea…IF retailers promised
    to only sell cannabis grown IN STATE, and
    NOT from California…LOL
    By the way Tennessee isn’t MY STATE just where I ended up, When it comes to fighting these atrocities we need to stick together and not draw boundaries with state lines. This movement is bigger that state’s rights, it’s about human rights

  21. The fight to free the use of any herb, especially when relieving pain is concerned, should never be a matter of states rights or the federal government. This comes down to the inherent right to live as free of pain as possible and use any substance necessary to meet that goal, without infringing on someone else’s rights. The simple act of using an herb in ones own home to relieve pain should never be infringed on, no matter what state you live in. An arbitrary line in the sand drawn by the same government that thoughtlessly imposed the prohibition of this plant should be ignored by anyone fighting for this cause for we are one in the same. Mother nature will never recognize these state lines as she will never recognize the prohibition imposed by this or any government. She will support the growth of this plant be it in California or Alabama with no thought to man, states or government only the freedom of this plant as any other to grow. We the people living in this free society should take a lesson from Mother Nature and combine our efforts to put down the ternary of this or any government that tries to shove these type laws down our troughs. Wrong is wrong no matter where you live and as a member of this fight we should join hands and fight together, least the government WILL put it down. The true power of any movement comes with numbers, everyone fighting for the same goal as one voice. Until we join our voices and move as one this fight will not be won, true freedom is something that has to be fought for and I for one am ready for this fight. The wheels of government and its courts will trample anyone that stands alone. Stand with me brothers and sisters and put an end to this cruel imposition set by the greedy and the ignorant for the evil we resist is man and only man can set it right.

  22. #29 Mike Says:
    August 23rd, 2009 at 8:47 am

    “…By the way Tennessee isn’t MY STATE
    just where I ended up,
    When it comes to fighting these atrocities we need to stick together
    and not draw boundaries with state lines.
    This movement is bigger that state’s rights,
    it’s about human rights…”

    RE: Mike,
    – I apologize for being divisive and
    causing offense where none was intended.

    (Depressive is not MY STATE,
    just the one that’s all too legal to reside in…).

  23. ” I smoke Pot, and I like it!”
    – Allen St piere seattle hempfest 09′
    That statement pretty much says it all.
    (sorry if I spelled Allens name wrong)

  24. How about a Hempfest in Florida? Maybe Palm Beach County?Better be a large area. Doug Guthrie
    [Editor’s note: Yep, how about one FL?! These massive hempfest, freedom rallies, hempstalks and weedstalks don’t fall out of the sky. They happen because 1) locals care, 2) locals organize, 3) locals put some skin in the game ($), and 4) self-sacrifices are made for the greater good’s efforts. The information and to access the folks who put on annual public events that draw hundreds of thousands are available to help out in FL–and not they’re not the least bit shy.]

  25. Buffalo Bayou in Houston, Texas would be a great place for a “Houston HempFest!!! Its large enough thats for sure. Thats where everyone goes to watch the fireworks every fourth. How about it, Houston Norml? If it happens, everyone wear green!!!

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