Hempstalk Festival’s lawyer: Portland is lying about drug use; festival is a civil-rights issue

Hempstalk Festival’s lawyer: Portland is lying about drug use; festival is a civil-rights issue

A lawyer representing the Hempstalk Festival said Portland’s recent denial of a 2015 permit is a civil rights issue and that the city had “no right” to require organizers to monitor marijuana use.

Ann Witte, a Portland attorney, filed paperwork with the Multnomah County Circuit Court last week asking the court to review the Parks Bureau’s decision to deny Hempstalk a permit.

Witte wants the court to interrupt the appeals process, which otherwise would lead to a Portland City Council hearing for the festival and founder Paul Stanford for a second consecutive year.

“The permit was denied in whole or part because of speeches made at this free speech event,” the complaint reads, “where the city dictated what could and could not be said at the free speech forum.”

In denying the permit, parks officials cited marijuana use, with organizers’ complicity, at this year’s Hempstalk in late September at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Witte said the Parks Bureau is overstepping its authority by requiring Stanford to police marijuana use at Hempstalk. She also said the city is unfairly targeting Stanford; other large waterfront events also draw marijuana use.

“I don’t think they have any right,” Witte said of the city. “When our DA has said ‘This is not a public safety issue; I’m not going to do anything about it.’ The police have said they’re not going to do anything about it. For them to say, ‘Paul, you’ve got to do something about this.'”

Witte was alluding to Oregon voters’ approval of recreational marijuana this month, and the announcement by Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill that his office would dismiss pending possession cases that would be legal under the new law come July 1.

Witte said she considers the festival, which advocates hemp and marijuana legalization for industrial, recreational and medicinal purposes, a “civil rights movement.”

“It was against the law for Rosa Parks to sit on that bus,” Witte said, “but she did it anyway, and it’d have probably still been against the law if she hadn’t.”

Witte also accused city officials of “lying” about the drug use at the event.

Read previous coverage of the Hempstalk permit saga:

  • Portland denies Hempstalk 2014 festival a permit
  • City Council opens door a bit for 2014 festival
  • Permit granted for 2014 festival days before deadline
  • Portland denies 2015 Hempstalk festival a permit

— Andrew Theen

Marijuana news.