Artist rendering of West Thomas Street Pedestrian and Bicycle Overpass looking out toward Myrtle Edwards Park
  • Proposed West Thomas Street Pedestrian and Bicycle Overpass looking out toward Myrtle Edwards Park

The organizers of Hempfest filed suit against the City of Seattle yesterday, over its failure to issue a permit for their 20th anniversary "protestival."


Thursday, February 17, 2011


Seattle Hempfest has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court against the City of Seattle, as well as its mayor, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, director of Seattle Center, and chairperson of the Seattle Special Events Committee. The suit seeks relief under the U.S. Constitution and the Washington Constitution, and was filed in an effort to obtain a 2011 permit to produce the annual free speech rally to reform America’s laws prohibiting cannabis.

The suit asks the city to issue an appropriate permit for Seattle Hempfest in August 2011 and, if necessary, to enjoin Seattle from implementing the “West Thomas Overpass project” in such fashion as to interfere with the use of Myrtle Edwards Park in August 2011. Planned summer construction of the sky-bridge in Myrtle Edwards Park, the location of Hempfest since 1995, has displaced the mammoth event which routinely draws more than 100,000 attendees annually.

At least, I think they filed suit yesterday. The official press release says that the suit was filed on "February 17, 2011" um, a week from now, but then, I've heard avid pot smokers claim that the drug can enhance their perception of time, so perhaps there's something about the timing of this I just don't get? Which also might explain why the media contact email address they provided (will provide?) doesn't seem to exist yet, at least, when emailed from my reality.

(Hey, sorry about the cheap stoner jokes, but when the Hempfest organizers act like stoners, it's hard to resist.)

The sticking point in all this appears to be the long planned construction of the West Thomas Street Pedestrian and Bicycle Overpass, which will span Elliott Ave. and the railroad tracks, connecting lower Queen Anne to Myrtle Edwards and the adjacent bike trail. Hempfest organizers say the project hasn't even been put out to bid yet, and are asking for construction to be delayed until after August. I'm waiting on calls back from both SDOT and Hempfest... assuming the latter has even received my queries.

As for other venues, Hempfest attempted to find a slot at the Seattle Center, but Mayor Mike McGinn's spokesperson Aaron Pickus says that the Center is heavily booked in the summer, often years in advance. "The Mayor supports Hempfest," Pickus insists, and is committed to working with the organizers to find a suitable time and location.

And if that doesn't work, perhaps the Mayor and Hempfest could try a little enhanced time perception.