Marijuana has been legal in small quantities in Seattle for almost a year. One Seattle activist has a massive party -- and a message -- planned for the anniversary of legalization.
"Tourists need a place to get high legally," said Ben Livingston, a pot activist, writer and head of the Seattle-based Center for Legal Cannabis. Seattle can potentially rival Amsterdam, Australia's Nimbin, or Jamaica for discerning travelers, and faces domestic competition from Portland and Denver, he said. "We have thousands of tourists who come to this town. Some percentage of them will want to smoke pot legally here."
Voters passed Initiative 502 last year, which took effect Dec. 6 of 2012, making it legal under state law for adults over 21 years old to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. But smoking a joint in public remains a civil infraction. Hotels generally do not permit marijuana use in rooms, it's illegal to smoke tobacco -- much less marijuana -- in bars and restaurants, and so on. Even renters can be barred from the use of marijuana in their rental contracts.
So ... what is a pot tourist to do?
The 74-acre Seattle Center is one answer, for one night, Livingston said. Livingston has a permit for music, catering and outdoor pot smoking behind a double fence at the former amusement park.
"The initial reaction from the city was, just, of course not." Livingston said. "I was just told no, it's illegal. And I said that this isn't what I want to hear. We just voted to make it legal." The use of volunteers and establishing a "smoking moat" with fences to ensure privacy won them over, he said.
The legal change introduces the possibility of cannabis tourism, but the operating environment doesn't support it, yet, he said. "People ask me where you can smoke pot downtown and I answer where can't you smoke pot downtown," he said, laughing. "But I think it's a serious question. Tourists don't want to stand on a street corner and smoke pot."
Coincidentally, Pearl Jam's North American tour ends in Seattle the same night. The band has been invited to attend.