Seattle Hempfest narrows focus to national legalization

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on August 16, 2013 at 6:43 PM

Having won the high ground in the battle to legalize marijuana in Washington state, potheads are ready to party.

"I think it’s glorious," said a beaming Alli Highley as she entered Seattle’s Hempfest Friday afternoon.

With recreational marijuana now legal in two states, and with 20 more legalizing medical marijuana, you'd think organizers might take this time to ... inhale. But advocates say it's time to take the battle to the next level. The federal level.

The focus is now legalization nationwide -- or at the very least, for the feds to remove pot from the list of the nation's most dangerous drugs.

"We're starting to reach a critical mass to end this critical mess of prohibition," said Hempfest executive director Vivian McPeak. McPeak has been at the forefront of the fight for decades. He believes momentum is building on a "grassroots" level, with the majority of Americans now living in states with some level of legalized weed.

Earlier this week U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to do away with mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes.

"I think we're seeing changes," said McPeak. "They happen incrementally, but eventually the whole thing will fall down, hopefully sooner rather than later."
   
But as the nation slowly climbs aboard the bandwagon, there are concerns about the viability of Seattle’s Hempfest itself. The world's biggest platform for pot legalization is free to the public, and only collects an average of 28 cents per person in donations.

"I see people smoking in the streets and partying, but what about the cause?" asks organizer Kari Boiter. "We are the ones out pushing for an end to prohibition, to change the laws, to get people out of jail. A couple of bucks means a lot."

Boiter worries that without greater financial support from the public, Hempfest could cease to exist. "It's snowballing. The costs every year add up. It's gonna get to the point where we can't keep doing it. And that would be devastating to all the work we’ve done so far."
 

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