Seattle, Washington — A languorous crowd of thousands strolled through a waterfront park gazing at hemp products and drug paraphernalia yesterday at Seattle’s annual Hempfest.
“Dude, why don’t they have this every weekend?” one man remarked to a friend as 15,000 to 20,000 people wandered along crowded walkways in warm sunshine.
A whiff of marijuana scented the air, though organizers said they were emphasizing the legalization of hemp, a variety of the marijuana plant that contains less than 1 percent of its mind-altering chemical.
“My thing is saving our planet… If we don’t stop using trees, we aren’t going to be breathing much longer,” said volunteer Jueles Scott with the Hemp Coalition.
“We’re not a bunch of hippie freaks who want to sit around and smoke pot all the time. It’s about American rights.”
Advocates said hemp plants nourish the Earth and that its fiber can be made into textiles, paper and construction materials, among other things. Although it is generally illegal to grow hemp in the United States, the products can be imported.
But there was no shortage of folks favoring marijuana, too. A group called the November Coalition collected hundreds of signatures on petitions asking President Clinton to release non-violent drug offenders.
One seller displayed blown-glass hashish pipes for $25 and bongs for smoking marijuana at $50 and $75, which she said were “really good prices, lower than the head shops.”
Marijuana’s legal status in Washington state has slipped into a more relaxed position since voters approved a 1998 measure allowing patients with certain illnesses to possess a 60-day supply of pot.
Police patrolled the crowd. Capt. Jim Pugel said that under the new law, when an officer sees someone in possession of marijuana, a report is written and forwarded to prosecutors. Seattle police had made no arrests by late yesterday afternoon.
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