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State’s marijuana momentum on display at 4/20 street fest — but pot smoke isn’t

Drag performer Maureen SanDiego dressed in a giant medical marijuana bag for her set at the Waldos Forever Fest on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

Weed smoking was strictly prohibited at the second annual Waldos Forever Fest, a street fair held Saturday in Uptown organized to celebrate the unofficial holiday of — you guessed it — cannabis consumption.

And while most of the hundreds in attendance toed the line, scattered plumes of marijuana smoke could be seen floating around the festival grounds through the afternoon.

Signs posted around the Waldos Forever Fest advised attendees not to smoke cannabis during the pot-themed festival on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times
Signs posted around the Waldos Forever Fest advised attendees not to smoke cannabis during the pot-themed festival on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

Bravette Fleet noted the irony of a lack of pot on the annual “high” holiday that falls on April 20, or 4/20.

“This is just kind of weird, having a 4/20 festival where there’s really no 4/20,” Fleet said. “How can you have all of this but not the thing that this festival is about?”

“I don’t mean no harm,” Fleet said. “I’m just keeping it real.”

Bravette Fleet criticized the lack of marijuana use at the pot-themed Waldos Forever Fest on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times
Bravette Fleet criticized the lack of marijuana use at the pot-themed Waldos Forever Fest on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

Still, this year’s fest — organized by Do312 and the nonprofit Medical Cannabis Alliance — was held as Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other Illinois Democrats are pushing to fully legalize marijuana and allow Illinoisans like Fleet to smoke grass just for fun. But that measure likely won’t allow for the social consumption of pot.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, a co-sponsor of the Pritzker-backed legislation to legalize recreational weed, even stopped by on Saturday, telling the Sun-Times that details of the bill — which has already passed a Senate committee — might be released as soon as next week.

“I wanted to be able to share our progress and how close we are to a final product that we could pass this year,” Cassidy said.

Rep. Kelly Cassidy showed up at the Waldos Forever Fest on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times
Rep. Kelly Cassidy showed up at the Waldos Forever Fest on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

“There is widespread support across the state — whether or not they’re willing to come out and have a party about it or not — they believe it’s time,” said Cassidy, citing a series of polls that showed two-thirds of Illinoisans supporting legalizing marijuana for adult use.

But as lawmakers continue to hash out the finer points of that legislation, medical marijuana patients are already free to buy the drug — something that was on full display at Dispensary 33, a popular medical pot shop conveniently located next to the festival grounds at the corner of Clark and Argyle.

A line of medical cannabis patients waits outside Dispensary 33 at the corner of Argyle and Clark streets on April 20, 2019.
A line of medical cannabis patients waits outside Dispensary 33 at the corner of Argyle and Clark streets on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times
Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

Eugene Minon, a volunteer managing the line, said patients were checking in via text and waiting around an hour to get into the dispensary to peruse the stash of medical pot products waiting inside. Like Fleet, Minon said he hadn’t seen any festival attendees sparking up.

“I think people are being absolutely respectful,” he said.

Pot smoke might not have been thick in the air, but the spirit of cannabis certainly was.

Hundreds of people flocked to the pot-themed Waldos Forever Fest on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times
Hundreds of people flocked to the pot-themed Waldos Forever Fest on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

Maureen SanDiego, a female drag queen who performed at the fest, came dressed as a giant medical marijuana baggy.

“I’m an unofficial medical patient,” she joked.

During her variety show set, which included pot-fueled jokes and musical numbers, SanDiego poked fun at the tricky legal situation surrounding marijuana in Illinois.

Maureen SanDiego performs at the Waldo’s Forever Fest on April 20, 2019 . | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times
Maureen SanDiego performs at the Waldos Forever Fest on April 20, 2019 . | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

“Who here is the most legally high? I know all of you are responsible, card-carrying medicinal marijuana users,” she said to the crowd.

In addition to enjoying an all day lineup of live music that ends with a scheduled performance by New Orleans bounce queen Big Freedia, the crowd munched on food truck fare and poked around interactive booths sponsored by the corporate cannabis companies comprising Illinois’ medical pot industry.

And the festival wasn’t just catered to the stoner set. Some North Siders said they actually came out to get educated and enjoy the warm weather that signals the start of Chicago’s ubiquitous street festival season.

“I’m here to learn more about medical cannabis and take advantage of the nice weather and the entertainment that the fest is offering,” said Mary Wright, an Edgewater resident.

Mary and Ron White wait to enter the Waldos Forever Fest on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times
Mary and Ron White wait to enter the Waldos Forever Fest on April 20, 2019. | Tom Schuba/Sun-Times