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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Seattle Hempfest evicted a man from Myrtle Edwards Park for carrying a 20-foot piece of paper and suggesting people should roll a giant communal joint (contributing a gram apiece).

Would-be record holder Brian Laoruangroch (pronounced “Loren-roach”) continued his quest outside the event gates, but of course much of the support evaporated once he was outside the protected enclave of the festival.

As this footage, generously shared with Toke Signals by Tommy Venard of MarijuanaHeroes.com, shows, it was definitely Seattle Hempfest staff — chiefly in the person of Hempfest General Manager Sharon Whitson — who insisted that Laoruangroch left the park, even after Seattle Police had indicated they had no problem with the plan.

Seattle Hempfest Black Shirt Dave Dammit, left, and General Manager Sharon Whitson [The Stranger[
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Seattle Hempfest Black Shirt Dave Dammit, left, and General Manager Sharon Whitson
[The Stranger]

Hempfest staff asked SPD officers to evict Laoruangroch, who’s trying to start up a legal marijuana business focused on cannabis branding in Washington state. Officers said that although they personally saw no problem with Laoruangroch’s plan, if Hempfest wanted him off the site, they were forced to ask him to leave.

Hempfest’s supposed problem with the joint was that it “exceeded federal limits” and was a “federal crime,” but what they were conveniently ignoring is that NO amount of marijuana is legal under federal law, and ALL of it is a federal crime. Also completely ignored, of course, was the local law enforcement, actually on the scene, had no objections to the joint.

After announcing his plans on Facebook, Laoruangroch quickly ran afoul of Hempfest CEO John Davis, who, just like Laoruangroch — surprise, surprise!! — is himself part of a nascent legal marijuana business, also focused on branding. The only difference between the two cannabis entrepreneurs is that one of them is CEO of Hempfest.

Can’t let the competition get any free publicity at “your” event, can you, John? That would be bad for business.

Seattle Hempfest CEO John Davis of Diego Pellicer (which, surprise surprise!, is in competition with Brian Laoruangroch's Prohibition Brands)
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Seattle Hempfest CEO John Davis of Diego Pellicer (Surprise, surprise! — in competition with Brian Laoruangroch’s Prohibition Brands)

What Davis has unintentionally done, of course, in his own cluelessly blundering way, is to shine a bright spotlight on the issue of corporate control of Hempfest, which reared its ugly head because — you guessed it — he’s both involved in big-money recreational marijuana company Diego Pellicer AND he’s the #2 guy at Seattle Hempfest, behind only Executive Director Vivian McPeak.

Nice work making it so easy for me, John! Hell, I feel as if I should have you on payroll. Before your dollar-hungry ass takes me seriously, let me hasten to add that I’m kidding; you’ll probably be doing just fine, anyway, what with your plan to charge $50 a gram for weed. Especially since you have the power to have the competition thrown out of Hempfest.

Davis, who was prominently obnoxious in his exchanges with anti-502 cannabis activists in Washington state last fall (which makes sense now that we see him openly planning to make big money off the newly legal pot business), was equally arrogant and childish in his exchanges with Laoruangroch.

“Seattle Company set to piss of reform movement permanently,” Davis posted on the World’s Largest Joint Facebook page. “Don’t step on our message, amateur. We will see you at 2. We want to meet. It might be a very short meeting.”

Despite the distinctly assholish aura of Davis’s comments, Laoruangroch responded positively:

Seattle Hempfest Quartermonster Sharon Whitson, middle, collars Brian Laoruangroch, as Black Shirt security guy Dave Dammit whispers in her ear  [Tommy Venard/Marijuana Heroes]
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Seattle Hempfest General Manager Sharon Whitson, middle, collars Brian Laoruangroch,
as Black Shirt security guy Dave Dammit whispers in her ear
[Tommy Venard/Marijuana Heroes]

“I will be wearing the cowboy hat!” he posted as “Prohibition Brands,” his cannabis branding company. “I will have no more than the legal limit on me John. Any joint smoked will be moved outside the park if we are asked to. The joint will have an ownership tag identifying the names, phone numbers and email addresses of the owners… so no one person owns the joint. We hope you will be part of the event.”

“I will,” Davis responded. “I will be personally looking for you,” he posted in what he must have imagined was a “aggressive tough guy” stance, which of course is a joke to anyone who knows the rather timorous Davis in person. “Thank you for identifying yourself so well.”

Although Davis didn’t show up in person — typically, he let the Seattle Hempfest “Black Shirt” security personnel, along with Whitson, do the dirty work for him — his unpleasant vibes hung over the scene as the Black Shirts stuck right with Laoruangroch through the park, actually walking backwards in front of him as if he were somehow dangerous or threatening (it’s hard to imagine a more non-threatening, un-dangerous guy than Laoruangroch), and running into other pedestrians because they were seemingly afraid to take their eyes off the “interloper.”

“Hey guys, I just want you to know that this guy is about to commit a federal crime, and if you engage with him, you guys may very well be culpable,” Black Shirt Dave Dammit laid on the heretofore mellow crowd. “If you look over there, the federal police and the Port of Seattle police have a large tower cam pointed right at us. Turn around and go ahead and look at it. This guy’s kinda trying to hijack our event, so make your own choice, folks.”

Wait a minute. “Hijack our event”? “Crash” it? By staging a public protest at a “free speech protestival”??

Um, OK. Yeah.

But then Dammit (perhaps accidentally?) revealed the real problem. He explained that Hempfest costs “over three quarters of a million dollars to put on… Why don’t you do like the rest of the vendors and the rest of the sponsors and pay us a little bit of money and help us put on this event for the people?”

“I’m just letting you know, it’s not Felony Fest,” General Manager Whitson told Laoruangroch. “We break ground, not law, and what you’re doing is counterproductive to our attempt to legalize and normalize cannabis.

“We understand,” she claimed. “It doesn’t matter, what you’re doing is sensationalism, and I get that you’re into activism and that you’re trying to find your voice. But we have to preserve our permit and we can’t allow the law to be broken on site. SPD is en route right now. I’m letting you know. I’m not into people getting arrested for marijuana. It’s the last thing I want to happen, okay?”

“We can’t allow the law to be broken on site,” of course, is a pretty goddamned audacious statement, given the fact that at least 150,000 people on site were smoking marijuana in public, in direct violation of Washington’s own so-called “legalization” law, I-502, prominently boosted by none other than… Hempfest CEO John Davis.

And of course the arrival of actual SPD officers — who seemed to have no problem whatsoever with Laoruangroch’s world-record joint rolling plan — put the lie to Whitson’s supposed concern and/or implied threat, using their name.

“Here’s the deal,” an SPD officer told Laoruangroch. “If the organizers say they don’t want you here, then we’re gonna remove you. Okay?

“We’re gonna hope that you cooperate,” he said. “We don’t wanna bring unnecessary tension to this event. So, if they’re gonna ask you to leave, then we’re gonna ask you to leave, and it’ll be trespass. This is a private event, okay? And if you’re unwelcome, they can ask you to leave and then we’re gonna have to escort you off the premises, okay?”

Laoruangroch asked if it would be OK to roll his joint outside of Hempfest grounds, and the officer agreed “what you’re articulating would be within the limits of the agreement.”

The cops escorted him just outside the park, where they said it would be OK to roll his joint, but passersby just weren’t into contributing anymore, now that he was outside the festival.

 

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