Cops to Distribute Bags of Chips at Hempfest (Really!)
Labels Will Educate Potheads About Limits of Legalization Law
As thousands of stoners prepare to convene at the world's largest pot rally this weekend, the Seattle Police Department is planning to distribute information to Hempfest attendees about the state's new legalization law—on stickers attached to bags of chips.
Because while stoners have no problem ignoring a leaflet, police recognize that it's nearly impossible to turn down a bag of Doritos.
"Distributing salty snacks at a festival celebrating hemp, I think, is deliberately ironic enough that people will accept them in good humor," says police department spokesman Sergeant Sean Whitcomb. "We want to make sure people learn the rules and that they respect the vote."
The labels on the snack-sized bags will direct festival attendees to the SPD's post-legalization FAQ titled "Marijwhatnow?" which went viral last November, reminding citizens that possessing up to an ounce of pot is allowed, but selling and growing the stuff remains illegal (until licenses are issued later this year by the state).
With funding for the project coming entirely from the privately run Seattle Police Foundation, police say they plan to distribute about 1,000 bags of Doritos over the weekend.
The SPD isn't just being progressive by national political standards—the cops in Seattle are more progressive than the rest of city government. The city council and city attorney are currently focused on crafting a new municipal citation for public pot smoking, despite the fact that cops can already cite people for public consumption under state law. But instead of issuing tickets, the SPD has been warning people getting high in public that they can be ticketed—the state has a form officers can use—but has only been asking violators to extinguish their pot. Police say this has remedied the situation without handing out citations.
In that vein, Whitcomb confirms that the "spirit of Initiative 502" will govern enforcement at Hempfest this year, and police will not issue tickets for public toking.
"We've said all along that this is a momentous period in our history. We only get to do it once," says Whitcomb. "Our department has taken a leadership role in public education, and it's a responsibility we are taking very seriously. We are not looking to have a heavy hand when it comes to enforcement. That said, the rules are the rules, and we want people to voluntarily comply with them."
Will cops give out tickets instead of snacks at next year's Hempfest? Whitcomb doubts it, saying the department is guided by a voter-enacted city ordinance from 2003 that deprioritized marijuana enforcement, adding, "It's not as if we get a lot of complaints about it."
Hempfest is August 16–18 on the downtown waterfront, admission is free, more information at hempfest.org.