To some, smoking pot freely at Seattle Center was liberating, a step out of the shadows. For others, it was a chance to partake in a little history — and at least one joint the size of a burrito.
The one-year anniversary celebration of legal weed in Washington drew about 400 tokers by 5 p.m., despite the frigid cold. Most of them crowded into a tent in the fenced-off party area, which quickly filled with sweet smoke, making it what’s called in pot parlance a “hot box.”
Alison Holcomb, chief author of the legal pot law, said Hempfest volunteer Nathan Messer asked her, “Is this the largest legal hot box in the world?”
Why not celebrate in the warmth of home with friends?
“That’s like posing the same question to someone in a beer garden,” said Duncan Rolfson, 21, of Tacoma. “It’s more fun to enjoy something social in public.”
“This is kind of history in the making,” said Lauren Donat, 21, of Seattle. “And I want to be able to say to my kids, ‘Isn’t it funny we had to actually fight to do it.'”
“We all have jobs, we’re normal people,” said Kyra Bottoms, 23, a barista from Seattle.
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The crowd kept mostly out of sight in the tent, behind a screened fence and another security fence that created a smoking “moat” required by the city.
Ben Davis brought his 20-month-old son Kieran to the Seattle Center Armory to see its elaborate holiday train set. Davis said he wasn’t at all bothered by the nearby party, which he wasn’t even aware of until asked about it by a reporter. “I think it’s a pretty apt place to have a pot party in a state that just legalized it.”
Aaron Mitchell, 34, of Honolulu, Hawaii, was one of the first lined up outside at 3 p.m., waiting for gates to open. Mitchell said he was in Seattle visiting a sick uncle, and saw a news report about the party. Mitchell was another party-goer who wanted to be part of history. “I want to tell my grandchildren I was part of this revolution that took the wave across America for the betterment of mankind.”
The party suggested that some might be moving to Washington state for legal weed.
Like Mitchell, Keith Cannon, 28, was one of the first to arrive at the party. Cannon said he moved to Seattle from Tennessee four months ago, in part for the pot camaraderie. “It’s such a universal language, and being here unites us,” he said, waving at the waiting line, “under one banner.”
The party started with one glitch. A short-stretch of fence above the pavilion, near the monorail station, was not screened. And until party organizer Ben Livingston got the fence company back to fix the problem, outdoor smoking was delayed.
But by 4:20, which is pot code for time to be getting buzzed, party-goers had packed the tent and their pipe bowls, and the party was in full swing. Musician Jim Page played inside a nearby building, and music was piped into the hazy tent, which was warmed by a few space heaters.
Visiting media included the BBC and CBC Radio-Canada.
On hand to help pot activist Livingston with the bash were his brother, sister and father.
Surveying the scene at 5 p.m., Livingston smiled and said, “We needed a bigger tent.”
The adults-only party will continue until 11 p.m. Admission is free.