Hempfest 2011 highlights both positives, abuses of legalized marijuana (VIDEO)

Seattle Hempfest 2011 supports the use of medical marijuana for qualifying conditions, but are those the patients who are getting authorizations to possess and grow cannabis?

The 20th Seattle Hempfest took place over the weekend, opening at noon on Friday in Myrtle Edwards Park and closing on Sunday. The weekend was characterized by many as a combination political rally, concert, and arts and craft fair, with various speakers, venders and bands entertaining and informing attendees. Supporters of the “cannabis policy reform event,” as it has been called by many, hope that the effort will further the attempt to decriminalize marijuana, as well as highlight benefits of hemp products and of allowing medical use of the drug.

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich attended Hempfest, and spoke about the legalization of marijuana, comparing the effort to the Civil Rights movement. Kucinich rallied festival goers, saying that shared awareness and activism could transform America.

"Open America! Show yourself! Mass action! This is why, and how, recent movements for freedom in Tunisia and Egypt gained momentum," Kucinich said, the Seattle Times reported. "This is how Gandhi's march to the sea cast off the British Empire. This is how America's suffragettes gained for women the right to vote. This is how Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington became a pivotal moment in the history of the civil rights movement."

Other pro-legalization politicians spoke at the event, including Seattle mayor Mike McGinn; city attorney Pete Holmes; city councilman Nick Licata; state representative Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle; and state representative Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland.

Medical professionals can recommend marijuana but not prescribe it, since federal law bans the drug. If an authorized patient is criminally charged with the use of marijuana, they have a defense under state law in Washington, the Seattle Times explains:

  • Authorizing: Medical professionals authorized to recommend medical marijuana include doctors, physician assistants, osteopathic physicians, osteopathic physicians' assistants, naturopaths and advanced registered-nurse practitioners.
  • Qualifying: Conditions include nausea or wasting from cancer or AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, Crohn's disease, or intractable pain.

Authorized patients are allowed to possess 1.5 pounds of marijuana under Washington state law, as well as own up to 15 marijuana plants. However, being approved is not as strict as the law originally intended. One reporter for the Seattle Times, Jonathan Martin, visited the “no medical records” tent set up at Hempfest and, within minutes, had obtained a one-year authorization for medical marijuana, based on self-described back issues (which, in fact, Martin does have). After Martin identified himself as working with the Seattle Times, the physician refused to comment further. Dr. Dimitrios "Jimmy" Magiasis, however, medical director of the 4Evergreen tent where Martin received the authorization, did say that the questions asked by the physician were an attempt to ascertain that Martin was in the pain he claimed to have, and said that, following complaints by other doctors about the Hempfest set-up, and questions raised by the professionalism of operating at such an event, "It's something we'll be discussing after it's over.”

"The intent of the law is to treat people with terrible, serious, even life-threatening conditions that may be helped with medical marijuana," said Donn Moyer to the Seattle Times, a spokesman for the Department of Health. "Ask yourself, is that what's happening out there?"

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Video: YouTube/420 Times

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