The dank, earthy scent of ganja lingered last weekend over Hempstalk at Sellwood Riverfront Park, but at least blazing partakers were nowhere to be seen.
The third annual celebration of all things hemp had been threatened earlier this year when the Portland Parks and Recreation Bureau raised concerns about the potential for pot smoking in the public park. But the city then reached agreement with Hempstalk organizer the Hemp and Cannabis (THC—nudge, nudge) Foundation that pot and alcohol wouldn't be allowed (see "The City and the Giant Hempstalk," WW , Aug. 15, 2007).
And so an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 frolicking children, lounging students and educators distributing medical-marijuana literature packed the festival grounds last Saturday and Sunday.
Buds of the festival's namesake were hidden away, burning in the pipes of stoners alternately coughing and giggling behind logs and bushes deep in the nearby woods. Turns out smokers needn't have hidden.
"We're not here to bust people," said a police officer covering the event who wished to remain unidentified.
The day's protocol was simply to tell roasters to put it out and smoke elsewhere. However, most tokers were already polite enough to sneak into the woods to avoid confrontation. Between coughs, a red-eyed Brandon Yount, 24, explained why he had hidden in a thicket of trees.
"There's kids out there," Yount said. "I don't want to smoke pot in front of them."
THC president Paul Stanford was pleased with the law-abiding attendees for abstaining from public burning and selling. Stanford attributes the absence of visible blazing this year to more police. Last year, when the event was at Waterfront Park, organizers paid the city for three police officers. This year, organizers paid for five cops.
"The organizers did a lot of work to make sure the attendees understood that smoking could not be tolerated," said police Lt. Bob Heimbach. "In the hour I was there, I didn't see anybody smoking."
Heimbach claims there were only a handful of instances in which his officers had to remind not-so-sneaky stoners of the rules. No festivalgoers were arrested.
However, smoking was just one way to indulge. Picnic basket-toting vendors weaved stealthily among the crowd, selling tempting "dankety-dank" buttery ganja brownies and cookies for $5 apiece.
Corey Smith, 21, a student at Lewis&Clark College, says he saw only a few people smoking, and many more eating.
"There were lots of basket carriers," he recalled.
Sharon Place, a tiny 51-year-old woman who wore a flower crown atop her waist-length gray curls, set up a booth selling crystals and hemp kitsch. "People come to these events just to buy [pot] food," says Place, who owns Loving Spoonful, a hemp food business in Eugene.
Last weekend, her employees sold suspiciously green brownies and cookies in grease-stained paper bags under the table in her booth.
Said Place, her eyes flashing mischievously: "I can't disclose what else is in the cookies besides hempseed."