500 toker pot party gets OK Outdoors at Seattle Center
Published on Nov 26, 2013
On the first anniversary of legal weed in Washington state, the city will permit a big pot party on the site of Seattle Center’s old Fun Forest amusement park.
Pot activist Ben Livingston has the contract to prove it, a city document that says “Licensee is permitted to host a private outdoor marijuana smoking area.”
Livingston forked over $1,900, which he got from a local law firm, to use part of the 74-acre Seattle Center for about eight hours on Dec. 6, the anniversary of the day Washington’s recreational pot law took effect.
It’s a free, adults-only event, open to the public, at which Livingston plans to have light music, light catering and outdoor pot smoking by up to 500 people behind a double fence, or smoking “moat,” as the permit says.
But it wasn’t easy to accomplish.
Livingston said Seattle Center officials initially rejected the idea because marijuana remains federally illegal. It took three months, he said, of arguing and pressing his case before city officials came around.
“No matter how often you might have smoked weed at Folklife or Bumbershoot, you were civilly disobedient,” Livingston said. “This is the first time ever on-site cannabis consumption is permitted at Seattle Center.”
A spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn said the city wanted to support a legal activity, but Livingston’s party marked new ground for Seattle Center, and city officials went back and forth on its permissibility. “We’re working to create best practices for private events where you can smoke marijuana,” said Aaron Pickus.
Livingston said he didn’t accept the center’s initial rejection because he knew of two previous events in Seattle — the High Times Cannabis Cup in Fremont, and the Cannabis Freedom March to Westlake Park — at which public consumption was permitted.
He also knew he had to overcome aspects of two laws: the new state pot law does not allow use in view of the general public; and the state’s indoor clean-air act does not allow indoor smoking, or subjecting employees to smoke.
By keeping the pot smoking behind two screened fences, he satisfied the first. By keeping it outdoors and using volunteers, not city employees, he met the second.
John Schochet, deputy chief of staff to City Attorney Pete Holmes, said Livingston’s permit should not be considered a blueprint for future pot parties.
The Seattle Center contract notes that an outdoor marijuana smoking area at Seattle Center is a trial program subject to periodic review.
“It’s unclear whether or not this is how things will work in the future,” Schochet said.
He emphasized that granting Livingston’s permit was a policy decision not something the city was legally required to allow. “There’s nothing that says you have to allow marijuana smoking,” he said.
Livingston’s party will start at 3 p.m. and run until 11 p.m. There will be an indoor area for partygoers as well as the outdoor smoking area, he said. He has invited local musician Jim Page, as well as new City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, City Attorney Holmes, and Councilmember Nick Licata.
He also notes that Pearl Jam’s current North American tour will end that same night at nearby KeyArena. “Hey, if they want to come over,” he said, “we could bill them as ‘Heady’ Vedder, ‘Stoned’ Gossard and Mike ‘McWeedy.’ ”