From education to silent discos, here’s what to expect at the first Bellingham Budfest

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About 2,000 people are expected at the first Bellingham Budfest, which is being billed as a family-friendly celebration of cannabis culture and industry in Whatcom County.

The event runs noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 14, at Zuanich Point Park, 2600 N. Harbor Loop Drive, on the waterfront. Entry is free.

It will feature speakers, city leaders and political candidates, five educational panels, seven live bands during the day, eight silent disco DJs in the afternoon, food and more than 50 vendor booths, organizers said.

In a silent disco, a DJ sends music over wireless headphones.

Ngaio Bealum, of Netflix’s “Cooking on High,” will emcee events. Budfest will include a cooking demonstration by chef Unika Noiel, who has been featured in the Viceland TV cooking competition Bong Appetit.

Washington state voters approved recreational marijuana in 2012.

A Bellingham store was the first in the state to sell marijuana on July 8, 2014, the first day of legal recreational sales in Washington.

State voters approved marijuana for medical use in 1998, but it was largely unregulated until it was merged with the recreational side in July 2016.

The Bellingham Herald asked Budfest organizers Amanda Mac and Stacy Bloch about the first such event in Bellingham.

How many people do you expect at Bellingham Budfest?

We expect around of 2,000 attendees, possibly more. It’s hard to say since this is our inaugural event.

We are aware that there is quite a bit of enthusiasm on the part of the public and word of the event has stretched beyond even Washington. Folks will be flying in from California, Florida and even Mexico.

You indicate this event will be an education-driven cannabis culture extravaganza. What do you want people to learn?

In the big picture, our educational goals are to demonstrate how cannabis is as much a normal part of society as other things, such as alcohol, (and) to remove stigmas through positive action.

On a more focused level, we are hosting five educational panels covering high-interest topics such as CBD, senior access, cannabis and beyond as therapy, and applying cannabis policy at the local level.

(CBD is a compound in cannabis that doesn’t cause a high. It is sold as a dietary supplement and is also included in creams and other personal care products.)

There will be other people involved from cannabis policy reform advocates as well doctors, patients, entrepreneurs and activists.

We hope attendees will be inspired to learn more on their own.

What do you hope people who attend take away from Bellingham Budfest?

Besides happy memories of a day with our community on Bellingham Bay, we’d like folks to gain a better understanding of what the cannabis plant has to offer us all, that the negative stereotypes assigned to cannabis consumers aren’t valid, that our cannabis industry and community are a positive part of Whatcom County.

Our goal is for the festival to become a Whatcom County lifestyle festival that attracts tourism to our area.

We plan on showcasing quite a bit of what makes this place so wonderful — from world-class glass artists to musical talent to nonprofit organizations.

Do you think people will be surprised that they can’t smoke, eat or buy cannabis at the event?

We think that a large majority of people are aware of the current laws in Washington state. The real surprise will be when people witness how positive this event and its messages are.

We truly are the next level. There are many more activities than your standard “listen to music, eat, shop” type of festival experience.

Possibly things you’ve never done or even heard of before like a yoga session via silent disco. There will be lots to see, touch, hear and feel.

What do you want the public to know about this event?

Bellingham Budfest is a Whatcom County lifestyle tourism event sponsored by the local cannabis Industry.

But this is really a community-powered event. The involvement of so many creative, enthusiastic members of our community demonstrates how special Bellingham and Whatcom County are.

Everyone is welcome to come down and be a part of this historic event.

Why is there no alcohol at Bellingham Budfest?

This event is about cannabis. Our goal here is to demonstrate how the positive benefits of cannabis can give people a healthy alternative to alcohol. There are a plethora of local events that include alcohol. This is not one of them.

What is the state of the cannabis industry?

The fact that we have a cannabis industry in and of itself is really exciting after years of activism.

The many challenges this new industry faces, over-regulation at the state level and federal prohibition to name a few, makes this time especially crucial as we move toward the future.

There is a lot of work still to be done to reform current laws and build this new industry. We still have people in prison while others are profiting majorly and that is not right.

Legalization is still lacking when it comes to decriminalization.

Details:, Facebook and Instagram.

About those laws...

Organizers discussed Bellingham Budfest with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the regulating body in the state.

And while recreational marijuana is now legal in Washington state, it doesn’t mean that you can partake everywhere.

Bellingham Police have been hired to be at the event and will enforce laws, Lt. Claudia Murphy told The Bellingham Herald.

That means smoking pot in a public place is prohibited and could mean a ticket if you’re over 21 years old.

If you’re younger than 21, you could be arrested on a misdemeanor for possessing marijuana.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.