Olympia Hempfest takes the high road while celebrating cannabis culture

The 2014 Olympia Hempfest kicked off Saturday to celebrate the cannabis culture under blue skies and a laid-back atmosphere.

Event organizer Russell McGregor said Olympia Hempfest offers a more respectful and law-abiding alternative than the larger Seattle Hempfest, which he dismissed as a “swap meet.”

“That’s what it feels like up there. It’s a swap meet where you walk around and get stoned,” he said of Seattle’s event. “In Olympia, everybody’s having a good time and nobody is being stupid.”

Marijuana is legal for recreational use, but it is still illegal to smoke pot in public. Security personnel gave warnings to a handful of people who were puffing away or selling medicated brownies, McGregor said. The note said violators put Hempfest in jeopardy — and face a $103 ticket if caught by police.

The annual cannabis celebration continues from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday at Heritage Park in downtown Olympia. Organizers expect up to 4,000 total attendees.

On Saturday, nearly 50 vendor tents were set up around the park , selling everything from food and glass pipes to clothing and energy drinks, with a live-music backdrop. Vendors sold tie-dyed T-shirts, somewith parody slogans such as “Seattle Superchronics” and “D.A.R.E. to smoke me out.” Sweet-smelling smoke wafted from the “medication tent,” hosted by dispensary Rainier Xpress, a chief sponsor of Olympia Hempfest. But only verified medical marijuana patients were allowed to enter.

At one of the tents, Real Legalization spokesman Don Skakie collected signatures for Initiative 648, which if approved would legalize homegrown marijuana for adults . Advocates plan to collect signatures through December and submit a petition to the Legislature next year, Skakie said.

The petition picks up where I-502 left off, said Skakie, referring to the 2012 ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in Washington.

“It’s the next piece of the puzzle,” he said of the newest initiative, which would give recreational users the same plant limit as medical marijuana patients. “If you want to grow your own, you should be allowed to. If the 15-plant limit is reasonable for patients, and it has been since 1998, then why shouldn’t it be reasonable for any adult now?”

Fire and Earth was among vendors selling glass pipes and bongs. Sam Lingafelter, manager of the Olympia-based smoke shop, said that the store’s products are for tobacco use. In recent months, he said, the buzz surrounding legalization has led to an uptick in inquiries at the store.

“I had a guy call me from Michigan and ask about legalization, just because we’re a smoke shop,” Lingafelter said Saturday, adding that Fire and Earth has participated at Olympia Hempfest for two years. “It’s a community event we can kind of relate to. We believe in the cause. We figured we should be here since we’re right down the street.”