Vivian McPeak

Seattle HEMPFEST® 2015 Business Mixer Integrated Into HEMPFEST Rally

For nearly a quarter of a century, Seattle HEMPFEST® has been a home base for the cannabis community.  Since the beginning of our social experiment to raise consciousness and spread knowledge of the many benefits and uses of Hemp and Cannabis, Hempfest has relied on the generous support of our many volunteers to do the heavy lifting, and our hundreds of vendors, and sponsors who literally pay the freight.

The nation and the cannabis community have evolved enormously over the years, and now that legalization has unveiled the enormity of the economic opportunity, the marketplace is accelerating at an unprecedented speed.

A year ago when we planned our first Hempfest Business Show, we envisioned a separate b2b event away from the main show at the Seattle Center.  In the last several months however, cannabis trade shows have popped up all over the country saturating the market’s appetite for yet another show.

A year ago, cannabis businesses needed to go off on their own to talk shop.  Now they are looking to take that talk to the main stage.

After speaking with our sponsors and vendors, and after learning of city placement of a 1,000 foot Waterslide on Mercer Street (directly in front of the venue, closing Mercer that day) the same weekend, we’ve decided to integrate the Hempfest Business Show into Hempfest.  We’ll still have a VIP Industry Gala at the Space Needle.

We believe that that the second phase of the Hemp revolution will be economic, and that our mission will be to take our conversations from preaching the gospel to the choir, to taking our evangelism to the mainstream.

Our media advisory about these changes is as follows:

Seattle HEMPFEST® Events Announces Merging its Planned Business Show into its Protestival and Business Mixer

In response to the addition of the Seattle Waterslide on Mercer Street, and market demand for a less fragmented cannabis event map and schedule, Seattle Hempfest has decided to merge its Business offer with its already successful Protestival, and new Business Mixer at the Space Needle Skyline Level.

“Business sponsors and exhibitors will be featured at our Protestival, where the larger community and audience will be at its peak, and more private business discussions will be accommodated at our Business Mixer to provide the best business experience to our partners,” said Vivian McPeak, Seattle Hempfest’s executive director.

“The new Seattle Waterslide on Mercer Street limits access to the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, on the same day of the Hempfest Business event,” said McPeak. “While at the same time, feedback from event participants and the broader cannabis industry shows a demand for a less fragmented event map and schedule, especially given the saturation of cannabis related business expos in our region.”

“Nobody wants to be isolated in a hard-to-reach area while everybody else is partying a few blocks away,” said McPeak. “So we decided to maximize our business partners reach and experience by relocating the Exhibition Hall activities to our existing and successful Protestival, and our new dedicated Business Mixer at the skyline level of the Seattle Space Needle. This should make the whole experience better for businesses and attendees alike: the big trade show with massive audience at the festival, and the dedicated business talks and networking at the Mixer.”

Vending, sponsorship, and volunteer opportunities for the Seattle HEMPFEST Protestival are still available, and more information can be found at



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Vivian McPeak

Republicans for Cannabis Legalization? Really?


America is polarized. Whether it is guns, abortion, the environment, energy, or healthcare, it seems as if there is a partisan divide over just about everything these days. So it can be terribly refreshing whenever there can be common ground identified by which normally opposing viewpoints can unify, even if only temporarily.

Such is the case with cannabis reform. Many in the reform movement have long wondered why more traditional conservatives have not taken up the cause of pot reform because it seems to align nicely with many of the values and ideals that have been historically paramount for the conservative movement.

One would think that anyone serious about limited government, state’s rights, sound fiscal policy, and individual liberty would be supportive of cannabis legalization. However, for the longest time, cannabis reform has been, more often than not, an issue taken up by liberal democrats. The hope and the change that pot activists have been embracing has, until recently, not been a cause that many card carrying conservatives were willing to publicly support.

I can think of a few times I have sat across the desk of a Republican legislator who has told me that they agree that our pot laws should be changed, but the political atmosphere had not yet become tolerable of such a position. “There is this thing called re-election”, I have been told.

After all, pot legalization is supposed to be a cause championed by dreadlocked hippies, Rastafarians, and record winning Olympians. And it is not like there have not been many ardent Democrats who have been drinking from the Reefer Madness punch bowl. Our own Democratic Lt. Governor, Brad Owen, has been a fierce anti-pot crusader for as long as I can recall. This stuff can be complicated.

Back in 1996 we took a year off from producing Hempfest. We decided instead to produce the first ever statewide Hemp Voter’s Guide. We polled every legislator in Washington state asking them if they supported medical marijuana, domestic industrial hemp production, and/or legal recreational use. The vast majority of lawmakers did not even bother respond to our inquiries. There were about 5 or 6 Democrats that did respond, with only a few of them even willing to openly support legal domestic hemp production.

Well, that was then and this is now. The winds of change bring a distinct aroma these days, and it is not the smell of the DEA burning a pot field nearby.

This is what democracy smells like.

After many, many years of swimming against the stream the water has shifted for us mota activistas, and this appears to be our time. In an election year where Republicans enjoyed a veritable landslide of victories pot reform advanced as if it were another tenet of the Republican platform.

Now, anyone who has been alive long enough may recall that republican Icons such as William F. Buckley, George Schultz, and Milton Friedman were staunchly anti-prohibition. In fact, the same year that we were polling Washington lawmakers Buckley penned a very cogent argument for legalization in the National Review. The Right Wing publication has held that policy position for all these years.

Despite the outspoken advocacy of these luminary gurus of the Republican establishment, the rank and file of the elephant party have been predictably rabid in their condemnation of everything cannabis, including reforming prohibition.

After all, the pot leaf was one of the prevailing symbols of the 1960’s leftist counter-culture. By legitimizing the devil’s leaf one could be defacto legitimizing the entire counter-culture. And there is the idea that cannabis is the gateway drug to harder drugs, a theory that has been a favorite of the anti-pot crusaders, yet totally debunked by science.

So why is one of the nation’s most ardent prohibitionists not only a democrat, but an heir to one of the most iconic, influential Democratic families of all time? Perhaps it is Patrick Kennedy’s 2006 conviction for driving while high on Oxycontin that has him living in perpetual reefer madness, one can only wonder. He may actually believe the stuff he says about the herb, or he may be posturing to gain public favor after being dethroned by his own drug controversy. It matters little to me.

What does matter is that Kennedy is wrong about prohibition doing anything other than perpetuating youth access, the black market, and record setting jail and prison populations by Americans of color.

Prohibition has been the new Jim Crow in many regards, meting out felony convictions while incarcerating a disproportionate amount of black and brown Americans, even though there may be more whites that use ganja regularly.

Proving that conventional wisdom is fleeting at best, current events reveal a growing cadre of Republican politicians publicly proclaiming their support for changing America’s draconian pot laws. Right Wing fixtures such as Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and even Sara Palin have expressed thoughts that the status quo is not working and that prohibition may be ineffective and outdated.

Shazam! It might not be only the polar ice caps that are melting. The Devil himself might be thinking about relocating to Florida soon.

Red state Alaska just legalized, even though Democrats were more than twice as likely to vote for legalization there. And then there is the bell-weather event of Republican Speaker John Boehner allowing two votes on cannabis to “go the floor”, which can be interpreted as the political ground shifting beneath our feet in real time.

Libertarian Republican firebrand, Rand Paul, has admirably touted the racial disparity in prosecutions for cannabis for some time, and he has walked his talk by suggesting that Congress stay out of the way of Washington DC implementing the reforms that the state’s citizens recently voted to enact. Initiative 71 was voted in by a vast majority of DC voters, seven in 10, and Paul rightly thinks it should stand as law.

Paul does say he thinks that pot will make people too lazy to show up for work. Perhaps Paul should hang out at Hempfest Central some time. He might change his opinion on that.

Now Congressman Paul has been joined by Republican Congressman Dana Rohrbacher in calling for the DC vote to be left alone. Now this is no surprise to me, because Rep Rohrbacher was a speaker at this year’s Seattle Hempfest. Yes, the Tea Party libertarian participated in Hempfest, calling for the government to stay out of people’s private lives.

After speaking from the Main Stage at Hempfest, Rohrabacher made another appearance at Hempfest’s coveted VIP Membership Party, which takes place inside of the event venue on Friday night, directly after the event closes. He gave a blistering speech about individual rights and government intrusions.

Now I am a lifelong partisan Democrat, and I lean so far to the left that my ear is almost on the ground. You can imagine my surprise as I realized I was developing a man-crush on Congressman Rohrbacher as he spoke.

We may be light-years apart on a variety of pressing issues, but as I listened to the congressman speak I really liked what I was hearing. And it was not just me. He was met with a roar of approval by nearly everyone in the huge Hemposium circus-tent. There must have been a few hundred people in attendance, and Rohrbacher was a star. Go figure.

Of course, the Republican tsunami that we just experienced could be the last great gasp of a party that is seeing its traditional base aging (as well as slowly losing its majority racial position in the United States).

It might be a good idea for the Grand Old Party to start embracing its more libertarian wing, because the Democratic establishment has been traversing out in the weeds in regard to rewarding its own base and articulating a coherent platform that stands for anything progressives hold dear at all.

Americans from every party deserve leadership that holds our inalienable rights above corporate interests and lobbyist influence. It is a national disgrace that America is the largest jailer per capita in the history of the world. We have an opportunity to right that wrong while providing our national economy and a shot in the arm in the form of a new emerging industry that has potential to take over the world.

Liberty, freedom, equality, and justice should not be partisan issues in a nation that markets itself as the last bastion of such principles.

For Republicans who feel that cannabis prohibition has been a costly and ineffective policy as well as a waste of resources, there is an organization to support. It is called Republicans against Marijuana Prohibition.

Also posted at 

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Vivian McPeak

2014 Victories. The Hempire Strikes Back!*

It seems like just yesterday that I was a young cannabis activist enduring the incessant derision of naysayers who confidently insisted that cannabis (which you probably call marijuana) would always be prohibited. People told me I was “jousting at windmills”, “pissing in the wind”, that legalization was a “pipe-dream”, and that lobbying for legalization was a waste of time. They asked us why we were not working on an issue that had half a chance.

Of course, my fellow activists and I did not agree with them at all. We felt that if enough Americans learned the truth about prohibition they would react by changing the laws. We strongly knew that pot prohibition was a policy built on lies, fear, racism, and cultural bigotry.

Well, there ain’t nuthin’ like a little vindication after decades of ridicule. However, any personal satisfaction that may come with being proven at least partially right is strongly overshadowed by the awareness that millions of Americans will now live free from the threat of arrest or prosecution for minor pot offenses.

The thought of a more just, more free America is what has kept us pot activists going for so many years. We surely have not been motivated by some self-serving desire to be able to get high, because prohibition never stopped any of us from imbibing if that was what we wanted to do. Of course, prohibition has hardly kept anyone from using cannabis because it has been a dramatically failed policy all around.

Now, even in the midst of a sweeping Republican rebellion, cannabis legalization is still on the march. Alaska, Oregon, and Washingtonian D.C. now join Colorado and Washington as having seriously reformed pot laws. In 2016 ballot initiatives are expected in states such as Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada.

While Florida’s medical marijuana initiative did not win, the fact that 58% of the voters approved it means that it may have been a technical loss (60% of the vote was required) but it was still a big political victory. Any Florida politician now knows where the electorate stands on the issue.

In Oregon, it is now legal for citizens 21 and over to grow, possess, or sell cannabis. The state will now implement a commercial regulatory system similar to those of Washington and Colorado.

In Alaska, where a staggering 80 percent of all drug arrests have been for pot, cannabis production will be taxed and regulated, making it legal for those 21 and over to imbibe.

In Washington DC, where blacks comprise about half of the population but account for as much as 90% of arrests for drug possession, the future of legal pot remains hazy. DC has a unique status as a district rather than a state. Several lawmakers, all Republicans, have pledged to overrule the will of the voters and use the federal status of cannabis to block legalization, which is typical. Those politicians are still living in the old paradigm, and I believe they may be in denial of what is taking place here, which, of course, is the slow and eventual crumbling of the policy of pot prohibition.

Washington DC’s law would allow a person over 21 to possess up to two ounces for personal use and to grow up to 6 plants in their home. The fact that the Pentagon now sits on land that was the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s hemp plantation brings all that much irony, eh?

So it is not only the 1% celebrating in penthouses and boardrooms across the nation. No doubt, they are giddy that they are enjoying the spoils of Citizens United and their ability to literally hijack democracy, and the ultra-rich have never been richer. They have been consolidating their wealth throughout this entire economic collapse. That is what they always do. Well, now they have even more potential to chase that precious ROI, as a new emerging market is coalescing, and legal impediments to its expansion are falling away like pot plants careening out of a DEA helicopter and back into the hands of the people who planted them.

The era of scapegoating, of dehumanizing, of persecuting otherwise law abiding, responsible, contributing Americans over their use of pot has started to end. What will be the result?

Well, let’s think about it. Violent crime has been steadily decreasing the entire time legalization has been making progress. There is a study that was co-written by professors from San Diego State, Montana State, and the University of Colorado at Denver, that concluded that the suicide rates for males aged 20-29 decreased 10.9 percent in states where cannabis is legal. Gee, it ain’t like suicide is a problem in the United States these days, right?

Then there is the study published by author Dr. Daniel I Rees, published in the University of Chicago Press, which concluded that “traffic fatalities decreased between 8 and 11 percent after legalization.” The study went on to conclude that “total beer consumption dropped five percent post-legalization and that traffic fatalities in which at least one driver had a positive blood alcohol content level lessened by 13.2 percent.” Less alcohol and more pot equals less deaths.

Yes, the Hempire is striking back with ferocity. All across America for decades pot activists have been using the system the way it was intended; by the book, peacefully, and without incident. There has been no violence, no victims, & no social upheaval. That may be because the cannabis reform movement is a peace movement.

Finally, the people are pushing back, and in the process, pushing the envelope forward. Now it is time to roll up our sleeves and finish the job for good. What is the eventual end goal? TOTAL WORLD LEGALIZATION. That is the last stop of this freedom train.

“All aboard!”

*This article originally appeared in the Seattle P.I. “City Brights” guest blog column. 

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Vivian McPeak

I-502 backlash?

A statewide I-502 backlash or reasonable pushback? You decide.

Marijuana. Just the mention of the word conjures up stereotypical associations: a bleary-eyed dreadlocked hippie in a tie-dye, a teenage slacker lounging on a sofa, bong in hand, or a shady drug cartel mule peddling the illicit shrubbery across a porous border crossing.

For a certain group of people, however, the word marijuana immediately floods their minds with apparitions of jewel encrusted dollar signs. The recent passage of quasi-legalization measures in Washington and Colorado have resulted in what could be characterized as a green-rush.

“Potrepreneurs” have been frothing at the mouth while contemplating the new emerging market that legal weed promises, practically exclaiming “there’s gold in them there buds!”  Many of them are already in the business, and they anticipate emerging from the harsh, cold darkness of the black market into the warm sunshine of a white market.  Time will tell how many of them get left behind.

If money actually makes the world go round there is no doubt that the globe is spinning at a greater velocity than it did just a mere few months ago, with the new prospect of legitimate commerce in a legal marijuana industry. Groups like The National Cannabis Industry Association have sprung up, eager to manufacture a new image for the nefarious vegetable.

In fact, the current condition of our stumbling economy has been a perfect storm for reform. As a full-time cannabis reform activist I have long been frustrated, demoralized even, by the stark reality that speaking of the social inequities, wholesale injustice, and routine cruel mistreatment of American citizens leaves most people unmoved.  But one mention of the potential revenue that legalization could precipitate in terms of tax dollars and retail sales evokes great interest.  Many closed minds seem to suddenly pry open when the subject of making money from a legal open cannabis market comes up. Well, to quote Malcolm X, we’ll legalize “by any means necessary.”

The reality is that in every community in America there exists a healthy black market operating around illegal pot sales. There are few drive-by shootings, and no dead bodies, which is why you rarely hear about the underground pot economy. This has been the case for many, many years. There is so much illegal pot being grown, sold, and consumed that cannabis has been designated as the number one cash crop in several states – while it is still illegal. Imagine what potential lies in a legal white-market for above the ground sales of the sticky green substance.

But with all the interest from venture capitalists and out of state investors there are very few entrepreneurs willing to dive directly into the retail marijuana business. The attorneys I have spoken with tell me that the vast majority of the start-up businesses being created as a result of I-502 are focusing on ancillary goods and services. Intimidated by several factors, including the inability to open a business account at a bank and trepidation that the federal government will intervene, investors are focusing on products such as point-of-sale systems, safes, containers, security services, and industrial strength grow-lights.

During the I-502 campaign the cannabis reform community was divided on the initiative.  There was much controversy over various components of the legislation; chiefly the limits set by the DUI provision, no home production, and a multi-pronged taxing scheme. Others opposed the initiative based upon their contention that it is written in a way as to be easily superseded by federal law. Of course, that issue may only come up if the federal government files a lawsuit in federal court to stop the implementation of I-502 in Washington.

It will be interesting to see how many of the initiative’s proponents are satisfied with the new law after it has been implemented.  It has recently been reported that under I-502’s zoning there are only a smattering of places in Seattle, for example, that a cannabis store would be allowed, chiefly in the industrial areas. The reason for this is the framers of the initiative followed federal guidelines in an attempt to stave off the ire of the feds.

Also, it is being reported that there has already been somewhat of a backlash in areas of the state other than Seattle. There are moratoriums in place and being considered in various parts of the state, and in an amazing display of compassion the cities of Tacoma and Everett have declared medical marijuana a nuisance. This is the new trend as towns and municipalities move away from the criminal courts, where there are now constitutional protections, to civil courts where they still hold the upper hand.

There is an apartment complex on Mercer Island that has banned pot smoking, but they did not stop there.  They actually tried to tell a tenant that he was not allowed to orally ingest his medical cannabis in his apartment. They have since rescinded that absurd directive. The man is a veteran, and he takes cannabis to treat symptoms of injuries he received in service to our country—ironically, “fighting for our freedom.”

There appears to be other people who think that it is a good idea to restrict the vulnerable among us from using cannabis in any form at any time.  State Representative Jan Angel, 26th District (R – Port Orchard), has introduced a bill to make it a requirement for anyone receiving assistance to pass a drug-test.  She has included marijuana, even though Washington voters have legalized its use, because it is illegal under state law.

So, Representative Angel wants to penalize anyone on public assistance who has in any way ingested an illegal substance, including medical marijuana, even though a huge portion of legal medical marijuana patients are so sick they are on assistance. Ah, compassion in action.

“We just want to make sure that on entitlement programs that we are feeding children and families and not a drug habit,” Angel said of House Bill 1190. While there may be noble intent behind the bill, there appears to be no exception for state legal medical marijuana patients, or for anyone on assistance who may be offered a toke by some generous acquaintance.  God forbid anyone on welfare gets a toke of pot. However, they will be forced to take all their prescribed pharmaceutical drugs or benefits can be cut off.

And Rep. Angel works for the citizens of Washington State, not the federal government. Why she feels it is OK to usurp the will of the voters here and sabotage access to medical marijuana for the poorest of us is curious. Does she also plan to test welfare recipients for alcohol and tobacco? Of course not. There is no justice in the War on Drugs.

This is the trend. Some criminal defense attorneys in this state are indicating that multiple jurisdictions appear to be preparing to go after medical marijuana with a vengeance. They predict that these towns and cities appear to be preparing to interpret I-502 as decreeing that only state licensed marijuana grow operations are legal. That means that medical marijuana patients and collectives will be left out in the cold. The same legal beagles think that medical marijuana dispensaries will be treated in an identical manner, despite the fact that a different majority of voters implemented medical marijuana into state law in 1998.

Some areas are already ignoring the community garden directive (Washington RCW 69.51A.085) which allows legal patients to employ community grow operations and distribute medical marijuana throughout their collective. The other way that communities could dance around I-502 implementation is by using zoning laws. They would just zone marijuana stores into oblivion. And it is not just the rural counties. New zoning restrictions are reportedly being created for Seattle as well.

Since nobody has ever dismantled marijuana prohibition before, it is hard to make a general assessment about the effectiveness and practicality of I-502. The jury is still out on the initiative’s impacts. Clearly, an international media grassfire has been ignited by the two states legalizing possession and an unprecedented momentum has energized the national discussion about reform. What remains to be seen is what the local implications will be for the voters who passed the two citizen initiatives and how satisfied they will be with the final result.

– Vivian McPeak, from Seattle PI blog post.

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