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Sep-18-2017 20:20printcomments

2017 Portland Hempstalk Festival is Officially Cancelled

Hempstalk is a casualty of a hostile corporate takeover

Real One
Real One's music brings everyone to their feet at Hempstalk 2014.
Photo: Bonnie King

(SALEM, Ore.) - At this late date in September, most regular Hempstalk-goers have already figured out something was amiss.

Indeed, for the first time since 2005, there will be no Portand Hempstalk Harvest Festival for the thousands that had planned to be in Portland the third weekend of September, who usually come to celebrate Hemp, Cannabis, and the benefits to humanity.

Why? This is a successful festival that causes no harm and has proven to be well-organized and an economic benefit to Portland. Everyone wants to know what happened.

Mystery solved. The major sponsor who has backed the festival for ten years is unable to continue, a consequence of the hostile corporate takeover of Paul Stanford. They cannot afford to produce the annual event without new funding.

“We are $35,000 in debt from last year, including $15k in city permit fees,” said Paul Stanford, Hempstalk founder.

In the past, the medical marijuana clinics that Stanford created (formerly known as THCF) have been the major sponsor, and paid those fees, subsidizing the annual event to the tune of $30-50,000 a year.

Paul Stanford on stage, Hempstalk 2014

While Stanford was at the helm, the clinics brought in $4 million gross annually, making it possible to sponsor integral hemp protestivals and events.

The new operators of the THCF clinics (now called Empower Clinics) no longer provide the sponsorship, and it was impossible to produce the event without it.

In 2014, the festival was moved from Kelley Point Park, a rural outdoor area, to Tom McCall Waterfront Park, in downtown Portland. This change has been a disappointment to the traditional attendees, but moving was not the choice of the festival committee.

“We had finally started to break even at Kelley Point Park, though the expenses were really high,” Stanford said.

“The costs included 40 golf carts, security and so much more. Still, the vendors were filling up and the crowds were increasing.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough parking, and really, that was the biggest problem.”

Jack Herer & Dr. Leveque, Hempstalk 2007

Hempstalk volunteers shuttled event-goers from the Expo center, but that was 5 miles away and so many people parked illegally between the expo center and Kelley Point Park that it was beyond the control of event management.

The Port of Portland didn’t appreciate the pro-cannabis festival, and the POP has political sway. They said “no” to Hempstalk at Kelley Point Park in 2014, primarily due to parking issues.

Me with John Sinclair, Hempstalk 2014

“So, they moved us to Waterfront Park. They made us put up gates, and it changed the whole atmosphere of the festival. Their security people were intimidating and made a lot of people unhappy. In fact, many saw what was happening and just turned away,” Stanford said.

Compared to Kelley Point Park’s growing attendance which had peaked at about 20,000, the sparse showing at the Waterfront was shocking. Attendance was down by more than half the first year, but increased year over year.

This year’s attendance will seriously reduce the annual average.

Before being moved to the Waterfront, plans were underway to rename Kelley Point Park for the cannabis icon who gave his last speech there in 2009, Jack Herer. Though this event is no longer being held there, Paul Stanford says it is still a goal of the cannabis community to memorialize him in this way.

Jack was known as the “Hemperor”, and Portlanders remember him well. He was the author of “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”, a book known as the cannabis bible, which he wrote while living in Portland.

The Portland Hempstalk has been the biggest annual hemp-related event in Oregon since 2005, all thanks to scores of volunteers, some key leaders, and Paul Stanford, specifically.

The Seattle Hempfest also counted on support from THCF, as they had for the last 10 years, which was a $50,000 loss from their major sponsor. This year, following the upheaval of Stanford, no monies were seen from the clinics, a shortage that caused a huge impact on the Seattle Hempfest, reducing it by two stages. Still, there is always next year. After 35 years of cannabis activism, Stanford is not the guy to give up the fight.

Hempstalk will persevere.

“We are working on next year,” Stanford said.

“We hope to retire the debt and move forward next year. Watch for the upcoming “Go Fund Me” campaign for Hempstalk 2018.”


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