(Reuters) - Police in Seattle have no plans to issue citations to dope-smoking revelers when the city’s annual Hempfest kicks off Friday, but officers will be handing out Doritos instead.
The annual festival, billed as the world’s largest pot rally, is being celebrated for the first time since Washington state voters legalized recreational marijuana use last year.
Officers will be distributing 1,000 bags of Doritos tortilla chips at the three-day bash with labels directing people to the department’s online pot primer, “Marijwhatnow?”
The guide explains that while recreational pot use is legal under Washington state’s new law, it remains illegal to possess more than an ounce of the drug, smoke it in public, drive under its influence or to sell it without a license.
“We thought, ‘what’s more ironic than police handing out delicious snacks at a festival that celebrates pot?’” said Seattle Police Department spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. “It’s a conversation starter.”
The ground-breaking ballot measure approved by voters last year made the Pacific Northwest state one of just two in the nation - alongside Colorado - to legalize recreational marijuana use.
Hempfest organizers last year raised eyebrows by officially taking a neutral stance on the measure, which called for a state-regulated regime of marijuana growers, processors and sellers that is set to take effect next year.
This year, they hope the collegial approach by the police will be mirrored by attendees, some of whom had been concerned that the initiative could negatively affect the distribution and use of medical marijuana.
“It’s going to be part ‘protestival’ and part victory celebration,” said Vivian McPeak, the executive director of Hempfest, which is to set to feature 117 bands and 105 speakers on six stages this year.
Police have taken a hands-off approach to marijuana use at Hempfest since at least 2003, when Seattle voters passed a measure making the enforcement of pot possession laws the lowest priority for city police officers, Whitcomb said.
“There’s a degree of latitude that happens every year,” he said. “Our number one priority is public safety.”
Editing by Tim Gaynor and Ken Wills