Ever since marijuana was legalized in the state of Washington, Seattle summers have become a hotspot for green-friendly parties and festivals. One of the largest is HempFest, a gigantic cannabis-centric gathering run by the organization Seattle Events. This year’s festivities went off without a hitch, with more than hundred thousand attendees sparking up while police officers were gleefully handing out bags of chips.
However, a few of the smaller cannabis celebrations in Seattle have drawn the ire of certain city officials, some of whom have been handing out citations to pot party planners. This year alone, inspectors have paid a visit to seven cannabis events, and issued citations to three of them. According to the HempFest organizers, two regulators even went undercover at the massive festival, but left after finding no violations.
During a 75-person party hosted by the same organizers that run HempFest, a city regulator dropped in by surprise to deliver a $1,000 fine. This particular event was held in a private space during 4/20, and only those with HempFest memberships were allowed to enter through the doors.
The inspector on duty claims that he saw attendees using marijuana, but his citation failed to explain how the group of people actually violated the law. Earlier this week, the city announced that they were dropping both the citation and fine after reviewing the case and consulting with prosecutors.
“We do not have sufficient evidence that the location where the conduct occurred meets the definition of ‘premises’ as currently defined in the Seattle Municipal Code,” says Julie Moore, a spokeswoman with the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.
The unfair treatment by city officials seems to stem from the paradoxical language of the state’s recreational law. While using marijuana in public and operating a “marijuana club” have both been deemed illegal, HempFest attorney Fred Diamondstone argues that the organization has the right to gather on private property and consume cannabis without consequence.
Considering that HempFest attracts thousands to toke up in public every summer, it seems a bit nonsensical that private pot parties are being targeted by city inspectors. Thankfully, Seattle policymakers seem to have backtracked on enforcing these baseless penalties, which could help set a precedent that will deter officials from cracking down on festivals and other events in the future.