HEMPFEST ’09: The Biggest And Best Of All Time

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director August 20, 2009

    By George Rohrbacher, NORML Board Member, medical marijuana patient


    WOW! The glorious Seattle waterfront at Myrtle Edwards Park was wearing its mid-August best! Saturday was broken clouds with sun in the high 70’s, Sunday, it was clear and 82. Sweeeet. Every tattoo, piercing and cleavage in the tri-state area that needed an airing, got one at Hempfest along the Emerald City waterfront this past weekend. Who knows how many hundreds of thousands hempsters were there? The park was packed beyond belief on Saturday. Over the night, the Hempfest staff changed the routing at over a dozen different foot-traffic choke points, so on Sunday, the crowd flowed so well it seemed the numbers were down…but, never fear, by 4:20 Sunday afternoon the 2-mile long city park was packed to capacity, like one huge happy sausage, all 5 stages rocking at once in a vast sea of people, all of whom who have assembled because they want to free a plant.

    Yes We Cannabis.

    As the potent Seattle Fog emanating from the Hempfest crowd slowly rolled out to sea each day to meet the stunning beauty of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains beyond, the scene  made me proud to be an American. Good golly, Miss Molly, Hempfest really rocked last weekend!

    Hempfest! America’s greatest all-volunteer event.  It takes over a thousand volunteers to bring this wonderful beast to life each year. With love and devotion those volunteers blow life into this dream, just as they have every year for the past 18 years—some giving only a few hours of their time picking up trash after Hempfest is done, or some like the late Share Parker who a few years back mortgaged her home just to keep Hempfest going. Hempfest has grown and grown to the point that this year, even though the event was barely promoted, this was the biggest Hempfest, EVER.

    HEMPFEST—the third weekend in August, on the Seattle waterfront, it’s fun, it’s free, it’s clean, it’s safe, no ticket required! Hempfest has become the goal of an annual summer migration of thousands and thousands of Americans. Seattle Hempfest has become an organic force like a salmon run….

    So much to see and do at Hempfest—a few things that stood out to me this year:

    *Hempfest expanded north of the Grain Elevators with great effect, adding about ¾ of a mile of new territory that was filled to the brim with hempsters. The Seely Memorial Stage’s new location created a great new venue for speakers and bands, a place you can get eye-to-eye contact with about 3-4,000 people, a very intimate experience compared with the Main stage’s audience of the ten’s of thousands.

    *I listened to a Hemposium panel of marijuana activists that included Tonya Davis, a wheelchair-bound woman from Ohio.

    As Tonya spoke of the horrible physical and sexual abuse she endured as a child, it brought me to tears. Tonya had been told to “Shut up” more often than she’d been called her own name, but now that she’d become a marijuana activist, Tonya refused to, “Shut up”, one minute longer. Such bravery, such heart. Thank you, Tonya.

    *The medical research on cannabis continues to open new horizons. If you want to get seriously excited about the science behind why cannabis is so good for you, Google Dr. Bob Melamede, prof., Univ. of Colo, Colorado Springs.

    *O’Shaughnessy’s The Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice, their Summer ‘09 issue is out! Get a copy! Perfect for any doctor wanting solid clinical information about the use of cannabis in their practice, or for the informed patient wanting to be more informed or get their doctor more informed about cannabis as a medicine. Editor Fred Gardner may be contacted to distribute or contribute to O’Shaughnessy’s.

    And, of course, there was so much good music I don’t know where to begin.

    Hempfest. Huge, happy, helpful, harmonic. You all made America proud of itself last weekend.



    George Rohrbacher, NORML Board of Directors
    Speech for Hempfest ‘09

    What a year for cannabis, since we last talked here at Seattle Hempfest…Hempfest, the greatest all-volunteer event in America…also the largest pro-cannabis rally in the world, a protest-ival of grand proportions! Give a loud round of applause to the Hempfest volunteers; the people who truly make this happen! And, Help ‘em out, all of you need to volunteer and pick up a little trash on your way out of here tonight. And say, Why don’t you become an official Seattle Hempfest volunteer and earn one of those cool t-shirts!!? What a powerful thing that would be, 100,000 new cannabis volunteers!

    And talking about numbers, last October, America arrested its 20-millionth person on marijuana charges! That’s 20-million people arrested for pot from Tricky Dick Nixon to today!! Sickening!!! Well, in November, We the People, by a big margin, elected ourselves a brand-new president, a President pledged for Change! The November elections also gave the people of Michigan medical marijuana by a 63% to 37%, a landslide vote! America’s very first tax and regulate cannabis bill was introduced in the California State Legislature.

    New Years brought in the “Michael Phelps bong hit heard ‘round the world”…What???? The planet’s greatest athlete is using pot???? Oh my God!!!?? You mean, Michael Phelps, the Internet/tabloid pothead-posterboy? He didn’t become a couch-potato-slacker/loser like our government has been telling us was going to happen to all pot users. They’ve been telling us those lies for decades. With Michael Phelps, exactly the opposite happened, for the love of water, that ‘bong-hittin’ pothead-loser’ became the most decorated champion in the history of Olympic sports!! A Paradigm shift of monumental proportions is going on here! Maybe our government hasn’t been telling us the truth about POT, after all? What do you think?

    February brought the great good news from Obama’s new Attorney General that President Obama’s campaign promises were now Federal policy, that the Federal Government would stop raiding marijuana dispensaries in states with laws that made medical pot legal. That means us…right here in Washington State…the Feds have called off their dope dogs from our medical marijuana!

    In April, on 420, NORML launched America’s first ever TV pro-marijuana ad campaign…NORML’s TV ad message: “It’s time to legalize marijuana” played in millions of homes across America, and was mentioned in The New York Times front-page story on 4/20, the pot enthusiast’s organic holiday.

    In June, Rhode Island’s state legislature over-rode their governor’s veto by a vote of 102-to-3, what a political Ass-Kicking…passing medical marijuana dispensary legislation.

    California’s Board of Tax Equalization, mid-summer, released the findings that by their calculations, taxed and regulated, legal marijuana would bring California’s governments an estimated $1.4 BILLION dollars of NEW taxes every year…billions in tax revenue that are desperately needed to keep their neighborhood parks and libraries open. For years, NORML has been asking the government to tax us cannabis users like normal citizens…And, that of course, doesn’t take into account the $15 BILLION spent every year on marijuana prohibition enforcement, money that would be much better spent protecting battered women, finding lost children and solving crimes. The message about how expensive marijuana prohibition is, and the nasty ramifications of the War on Drugs is finally getting through to the American public for the very first time in our lifetimes!

    Then…something unbelievably important happened a couple weeks ago: on July 23rd,for the first time in the history of their publication, The Wall Street Journal did a front-page article on the pot business! They said essentially: Now that the Federal raids have ended, medical cannabis is becoming a normal business. Woa, Nellie, bar the doors, when the WSJ says that there is “gold in them thar ills”, look out!!!

    I want you to think about this for a second: about three weeks ago, the world’s premier economic newspaper declared that medical marijuana is: “OPEN FOR BUSINESS”. This story was read by millions and millions of the world’s biggest economic movers and shakers, everyone of whom are on the lookout for what is going to be the “next new thing”, and you can bet thousands and thousands of those well-heeled entrepreneurs have already started making their own cannabis business plans, potentially effecting the future of marijuana’s economic and legal landscape. The Wall Street Journal declared it loud and clear: the legal marijuana gold rush has begun! With this kind of attention, it won’t be long before there is a medical cannabis dispensary in your neighborhood shopping mall!! Now, that’s what I call progress!

    It is your job and my job to keep up the pressure, to keep to keep this CHANGE rolling on.

    Well, how are we going do it???

    The Answer: Get loud, get active, JOIN NORML, volunteer!   THANK YOU

    35 responses to “HEMPFEST ’09: The Biggest And Best Of All Time”

    1. One of my fave moments: I approach George backstage at Seeley and he says, “Is it my imagination, or did they expand Hempfest this year? I don’t ever remember going past the grain elevators!”

      For a moment I thought of saying, “Naw, George, it’s always been this long – I think you’re too high.”

      Another great moment: my wife asks George whether I’m doing a good job at NORML. “Are you kidding?!?,” he says, “we needed this guy eight years ago!”

      Thanks, George! Compliments like that keep me going, especially from people like you whom I respect so highly. (Well, I do everything highly…)

      Fantastic speech, by the way, especially the line “Michael Phelps – The Un-Couch Potato!” You’re one of the few who can inform and entertain a huge crowd like Hempfest.

    2. John Davis says:


      Once again, a great pleasure and honor to have you out. Here’s to the year it is a celebration as opposed to a protest. I think it is going to be soon.


    3. are you guys looking for volunteers by any chance?

    4. Trey Haltom says:

      This is very refreshing, and good news. Keep up the good work! I just wish i could have been there too.

    5. R.O.E. says:

      This is awesome news! The fact that hempfest was bigger means the word is spreading. The government lies! As if we didnt know that,but the more eyes that are opened the better, the sooner we can end this madness and have a REALLY big hempfest!

    6. Chris Akes says:

      My fellow Norml associates, neighbors, and countrymen. It is indeed a pleasure to see such a turnout for Hempfest. I am humbled by the presence of such a great movement, and encouraged as citizen of this great nation. This is the age of reason. It is incredible to such a large mass of people saying in one voice “we will not go quietly into the night! We wont lie down like dogs without a fight! We will prevail! Today we declare our independence! Today we declare our right to survive!” This is what our country is about. Being able to freely express ourselves without the fear of being lashed by our king, fear of retribution for our beliefs, or fear of retaliation for our opinions.

      Remember this day as the world stopped. When people came together freely, and extended their arms open to their fellow man, and embraced them as a person. For far to long we all have suffered from the atrocities of our own government. We have been jailed, we have been beaten, and we have suffered an unimaginable terror for no purpose other than to fulfill the greed of others. It is our right to stand up to those that mean to harm us. It is our right as citizens of this great nation to bring our claborative fists together, and fight our way through the masses.

      I implore all those that read this to pass our message along. To your neighbors, to your friends, to your family, and to anyone that cares to listen. There is no power in this world greater than the American voice. We shall not rest till our people are free, we shall not rest till our voice is heard, and most importantly, we shall not rest till justice has prevailed.

      Brothers and sisters, keep up this great fight! We cannot loose if we all fight together! God bless this movement, god bless those that are prisoners of this war, and god bless our country.

      With my love, keep up the good fight! Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!”

      Chris Akes

    7. Anonymous says:

      Wow, amazing they keep expanding it and even MORE people show up every year! I wonder what the official guesstimate was this year?

    8. Mark, Glenolden, PA says:

      NEWS FLASH!!!!!!!




      The Netherlands, Portugal and now Mexico have a better drug policy than America.


      I’ll be posting a new video on YouTube about this.

    9. Mike Stroup says:

      Wish I could have been there. It is heartening to know so many fellow American patriots are willing and able to avail themselves of God’s will for people to live in freedom with liberty as acknowledged and cited in the Constitution of the United States.

    10. CKDK29 says:

      Hey #8 i thought they already did tht back in April? Or were they jus talking about it then?