Hempstalk 2014: Celebrating marijuana in downtown Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — It was a surprisingly chilly Saturday on the first day of Hempstalk 2014, Portland’s annual celebration of marijuana. Omnipresent clouds refused to budge until hours later than forecast – a typical fall day.

Not typical were the thousands of people at Tom McCall Waterfront Park who had gathered to celebrate, if not outwardly partake in, marijuana (smoking was not prohibited and organizers encouraged medical marijuana patients to medicate, if needed, before arriving at the event).

At this time of year, the return of rain starts to make the Rose City’s landscape turn neon green. But the grass and trees were a muted background for the Technicolor explosion at Hempstalk.

Brightly colored glass smoking apparatuses, hemp jewelry and salves, elaborately decorated signs, intricate outfits featuring a heavy dose of tie-die, and necklaces made of (presumably fake) pot leaves made for a visual parade, even for those who weren’t partaking in substances other than coffee.

This year’s festival was more than just a celebration of pot – Measure 91, which proposes that Oregon legalize marijuana, will appear on the November ballot and attendees were voicing their opinions on the measure.

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“I generally support it,” said Bjoern Fritzcsche, who tests cannabis for mold, mildew and potency at Rose City Laboratories in compliance with Oregon’s medical marijuana laws.

“It will expand our market,” he said of what he called a fairly harmless product. “On top of that, there are too many costs — money and enforcement — [compared to] what benefits society.”

But despite the pot-positive crowd, not everyone in attendance supported blanket legalization of marijuana.

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Jered Decamp used to own dispensary in Salem, which closed due to the Marion County medical pot moratorium.

“I’m undecided. It’s hard to vote pro-91 when you see all the legalization going on in Washington and you look down here and say, ‘Do we want that for Oregon?’” He said. “We have a good medical marijuana program. Why screw it up for the patients just so that anyone can go smoke marijuana?”

Still, Decamp said he’s glad Oregonians will get to decide for themselves in November.

One attendee wanted more than just legal pot on the ballot. Merrick Bonneau was petitioning to start an entire political party centered around the plant.

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Bonneau was collecting signatures to start the H.E.M.P. party, which he says stands for ‘Help Everybody Maintain Prosperity.’ His platforms include removing hemp as a federally scheduled drug and re-introducing it as a source of fuel, food and building materials.

Whether a H.E.M.P. party can gain traction is yet to be determined. But judging by the diverse crowd at the packed festival in one of Portland’s most visible public spaces, marijuana in all forms has a lot of support in Oregon.

By Sara Roth, KGW.com Staff

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