Three weeks ago, I reported that the Seattle Center issued its first-ever permit for a pot party, which takes place December 6 inside a big tent at the foot of the Space Needle. (Full disclosure: They issued the permit to me.) The story went viral. Jimmy Fallon even joked about it on his TV show, suggesting several stoner Christmas carols we'd be singing.
But some people find no humor in the pot party.
Nine drug-abuse-prevention leaders sent a letter to the Seattle Center, Mayor Mike McGinn, and the Seattle City Council on November 25 demanding the city shut down the celebration, which will mark the one-year anniversary of Washington State's marijuana-legalization law taking effect.
"Not only will this public event be in violation of state law, Seattle Center is a poor location for the party considering it takes place during Winterfest, a family-friendly event," they wrote.
The group includes Richard Catalano, director of a UW research center that will advise the state on drug-prevention grants generated by revenue from pot taxes. They argue that state law bans smoking in "public places," Initiative 502 bans pot use on public property, and pot-tolerant parties should be 1,000 feet from schools and parks.
But these folks are wrong about the facts—and they undermine their own credibility.
The smoking ban applies to buildings, not outdoor smoking areas. The new pot law bans cannabis consumption in public view, not in a private party with ID checks, double fences, and privacy screening. Plus, Seattle Center allows beer gardens, and alcohol is sold at Winterfest.
Not only are these anti-pot leaders total holiday buzzkills, their fearmongering is counterproductive. Exaggerating the harm of drugs has been a tactic used by programs like D.A.R.E. and antidrug commercials, which studies have shown to be ineffective at reducing drug abuse. Even worse, in some cases, they actually made kids distrust their messages and try drugs more.
These treatment professionals are making the same sort of mistakes. By pretending that smoking pot—the same way people drink in a beer garden—is inherently harmful to society, they simply become less trustworthy. And that sort of bullshit is the essence of the drug war that legalization is trying to solve.
I share the goal of keeping drugs away from children, though we disagree on some tactics—like forcing potheads to stay hidden at home and outlawing communal cannabis consumption. Drug-prevention professionals must lead with fact-based strategies that help youth make informed, health-conscious lifestyle choices, and they must let go of assumptions that pot people—and their parties—are anti-family, immoral, or intolerable.