Lawsuit Served Against Seattle Hempfest For Being Sham ‘Free Speech’ Event

By On August 14, 2015 at 4:20 pm

A lawsuit was served on Friday in King County Superior Court against Seattle Hempfest and the City of Seattle, accusing the city of engaging in a quid pro quo that grants Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes “the ability the employ a bully pulpit to foster his political agenda while suppressing dissent under false color of a ‘Free Speech’ event.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 16.34.01Olympia medical marijuana activist and legal gadfly Arthur West, something of a local legend when it comes to successful lawsuits against bumbling government entities, is the plaintiff, filing in the Superior Court of the State of Washington for King County on August 14.

“By means of this quid pro quo, the City spends thousands of dollars every year to grant Seattle [E]vents special privileges and immunities to conduct profitable commercial activity and to violate State law regarding use of marijuana in a public park, and Seattle [E]vents in return provides the City attorney with a politically and materially valuable kickback in the form of a staged ‘free speech’ event where dissent is stifled and citizens such as plaintiff West are blacklisted,” the complaint reads.

Arthur West: "Quote" [Washington State Wire]

Seattle Events is the ostensibly nonprofit corporation which runs Seattle Hempfest; the defendants are that corporation, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, Seattle Hempfest President Vivian McPeak, Seattle Hempfest Vice President Jeff Davis, the Seattle City Council, and the City of Seattle.

Seattle Hempfest Vice President John Davis of Diego Pellicer [West Seattle Herald]

West told Toke Signals on Thursday that if Hempfest had simply run an actual free speech event, and accepted his application to speak this year, the lawsuit wouldn’t have happened. Since the existence of a blacklist has become obvious in a supposedly free speech event, West told us he felt compelled to do something about it.

According to West, the clear pattern is for Hempfest to award speaking slots to those who don’t make waves, especially those who either support I-502, Washington’s recreational marijuana law, and SB 5052, the law which, in turning medical marijuana over to the Liquor and Cannabis Control Board, does a pretty complete job of eliminating medicinal cannabis access as patients have known it in the state for more than 15 years, or at least don’t actively or vocally oppose them.

Bevery Hills' Cheryl Shuman (left) and Vivian McPeak in 2012, the year Shuman won a special Activist of the Year Award and destroyed Moms For Marijuana [Beverly Hills Cannabis Club]

“The [H]empfest speakers selection committee is a sham and does not select speakers in a content neutral manner, but rather for their political beliefs,” West’s complaint alleges. “Further, due to the corrupt actions of all named defendants, the selection of speakers inevitably includes many members of the selection committee itself[,] and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and his cronies from New Approach Washington, while suppressing the message of those opposed to this partisan agenda, a clear case of
censorship at an ostensibly ‘free speech’ event,” the complaint reads.

Activists such as West who have called out supporters of I-502 and SB 5052, such as Hempfest Vice President John (Jeff) Davis, quickly become blacklisted and can’t make it past the “Speaker Selection Committee.” The weakly compliant McPeak has meekly remained in the background, mouthing his faint opposition to this fucking-over of the medical marijuana community while doing absolutely nothing in the real world to stop his own business partner, Davis, from doing exactly that.

West’s complaint is “an action for damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.”

“Ironically, the City and Pete Holmes have, this year, granted permits for activities involving the consumption of marijuana now illegal under the ‘legalization’ reforms that Pete Holmes and New Approach Washington, with the aid and support of Hempfest championed,” West’s complaint reads. “Equity requires that they should be made to lie within the confines of the bed they so carefully crafted.”

“The City spends many tens of Thousands of dollars each year to improperly subsidize the commercial activities of Hempfest,” the complaint reads. “The profits generated by the operation of Seattle Events appear to be siphoned off into a series of short lived dummy front corporations.”

Vivian McPeak hadn’t responded at press time to a request for comment. City Attorney Holmes’ office seemed unaware of the lawsuit when called late Friday afternoon. West’s complaint is stamped as having been received at the City Attorney’s office at 9:58 Friday morning, August 14.


Wherefore, Plaintiff respectfully requests the following relief:
5.1 That a ruling issue under the seal of this Court finding that The Seattle City Attorney has entered into a quid pro quo with Seattle Events to allow them unlawful special privileges and immunities to profit from illegal commercial activity subsidized by the City of Seattle in return for consideration and a kickback in the form of a politically valuable bully pulpit for Mr. Holmes and his New Approach Washington cronies to promote their political agenda in the absence of credible opposition.
5.2 That a ruling issue under the seal of this Court enjoining defendant Seattle Events from continuing to enjoy special privileges and immunities in the form an improper subsidy to conduct illegal activities on City Park lands and to conduct a subsidized “free speech” event that is actually a censored and politically slanted forum for political indoctrination and promotion of the interests of Pete Holmes and his cronies from New Approach Washington.
5.3 That the City be forever barred from subsidizing an ostensibly free speech event that is in fact censored, and from granting Seattle Events special privileges and immunities to conduct illegal commercial activities supported by a public subsidy.
5.4 That plaintiff be awarded his costs and fees.