Seattle cops to hand out Doritos at marijuana rally

by: Casey McNerthney, KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:

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The world’s largest pro-pot rally will be in Seattle this weekend – and police here are handing out free bags of Doritos.

The bags of nacho cheese-flavored chips will come with information about Initiative 502, the voter-approved initiative that made small amounts of marijuana legal for adult consumption in Washington.

“It’s meant to be funny and ultimately our No. 1 goal is community outreach and public education,” said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, who also is speaking on a Hempfest stage Saturday. “It totally buys into the stereotype, but in this particular case, we feel that we’ll be getting our message out.”

The 1,000 bags of chips are paid for by the Seattle Police Foundation, so taxpayer money isn’t being used, Whitcomb said.

“A lot of people are confused and still have questions,” he said of I-502. “We want people to know the rules to follow the law and respect the vote.”

The Doritos effort is more attention for a police department that received worldwide attention last November for their question and answer guide called “Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle.”

The guide had questions such as, “What happens if I get pulled over and I’m sober, but an officer or his K9 buddy smells the ounce of Super Skunk I’ve got in my trunk?” It also included a YouTube video clip from “Lord of the Rings” titled “The Finest Weed.”

Hempfest is expected to bring at least 250,000 people over three days.

In 1987, McPeak formed the Seattle Peace Heathens Community Action Group, which ultimately grew to form the Hempfest organizing crew. The group organized a Gas Works Park peace vigil in 1990, protesting the Gulf War, and drug advocate Timothy Leary was among the visitors during the six months it lasted. The protesters sang, meditated and one day invited a speaker from a marijuana law-reform group.

That evolved into the Washington Hemp Expo in spring 1991, drawing about 500 people to Volunteer Park. When it was renamed Hempfest the following year, attendance quadrupled. By 1993 the festival had 5,000 people. That year also had a “Bong-a-Thon," but few problems with police.

The citations for marijuana came at the 1997 Hempfest when about 60 people were ticketed. But no citations were issued in the last two years, which drew crowds of roughly 300,000 people. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn was among the many speakers at the 2011 Hempfest.

A month after the 2003 Hempfest, Seattle voters passed an initiative making the investigation, arrest and prosecution of marijuana offenses, when the drug was intended for adult personal use, the lowest law enforcement priority. Medical marijuana has been legal in Washington since 1998.

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