Pot smokers light up in shadow of Space Needle

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

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SEATTLE —

Hundreds of pot smokers gathered Friday in the shadow of the Space Needle to celebrate a year since the voter-passed marijuana legalization law took effect.

In the first marijuana event to be given a city permit at Seattle Center, people crowded into a tent to smoke weed.

The city permit required that the event follow state law by keeping pot smoking out of public view.

Organizers were required to put up two layers of fencing to shield the smoking from people passing by.

But the fencing to block the view from the nearby monorail station was late in arriving, so instead of opening at 4 p.m., organizer Ben Livingston told KIRO 7 the gates opened at 4:17.

Because 4:20 is the traditional time to smoke marijuana, many people were still in line outside the gate, and a few smoked joints, in violation of state law.

In the permit city officials stated the event was considered a trial for whether marijuana smoking areas would be allowed at future Seattle Center events.

The City Attorney's Office told KIRO 7 earlier Friday the event as described in the permit was legal, but that didn't mean illegal activity would not occur.

Of particular concern to both city officials and organizers: people smoking publicly or selling marijuana. Marijuana sales remain illegal because no state-licensed stores have yet opened.

Enforcement was up to event organizers and private security guards. A Seattle police spokesman told KIRO 7 there was no extra presence planned at the event. No officers were visible.

To try to contain the pot smoking, organizer Livingston got the city Fire Marshal's Office to agree to expand the fence perimeter, raising the capacity from 499 to 999.

Livingston said he moved the outdoor smoking area an extra hundred feet from the Seattle Center Armory and delayed the start time from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. to address concerns raised by pediatricians at Seattle Children's Hospital.

A few doctors at Children's joined substance abuse prevention leaders in sending a letter to the city raising concerns about the event, which was permitted during a season when Seattle Center is filled with children visiting Winterfest.