4/20 plans nixed as celebrations of legal weed move online amid coronavirus outbreak

But Dispensary 33’s festival going virtual means revelers can actually legally consume pot — at home, a spokeswoman says.

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

April 20 has long been a celebration of all things weed, but this year was supposed to be different in Illinois.

Coming just over three months after pot was legalized for recreational use, 4/20 offered an opportunity for the state’s residents to publicly embrace cannabis and its colorful subculture, which has swiftly shifted from the underground to Main Street.

But as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise late last month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker effectively put the kibosh on any 4/20 parties when he extended a statewide stay-at-home order until May that prohibits large gatherings.

Dispensary 33 has since announced that the third annual Waldo’s Forever Fest, a huge, bud-friendly bash slated to take place Saturday outside the pot shop at Clark and Division, will now be held online using the Twitch app. The physical event has tentatively been rescheduled for Sept. 26.

“This 4/20 was going to be on a whole ‘nother level. We were super excited to blow it out with the street festival. I think we were going to have twice the size of out footprint last year,” Dispensary 33 spokeswoman Abigail Watkins said of the event, which drew thousands last year.


Consumption allowed — at home

Watkins said the socially distanced shindig, scheduled to start at 4:20 p.m. on Saturday, looks to “showcase different personalities and different people’s talents in the cannabis community all throughout Chicago.” The bill features a live-stream of local DJs and glass blowers, as well as stony Chicago sibling rockers White Mystery and drag performers Lucy Stoole and Shea Coulee, a finalist on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

“I still think it’ll be fun and we’ll still be able to connect people through cannabis and celebrate,” said Watkins. “Also people are going to be able to smoke at home and actually celebrate 4/20 with consumption, which there wasn’t going to be consumption on-site at the fest” — since public consumption remains illegal.

With much of the country ordered to stay home, similar virtual events offer pot users a way to observe the “high” holiday from their living rooms. One celebration scheduled for Monday and dubbed Higher Together features a DJ set and smoke session with rapper and reefer enthusiast Wiz Khalifa and a performance by Billy Ray Cyrus.

All proceeds from a donation drive will go to the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit that seeks to address the harms of cannabis prohibition and is circulating a petition to urge President Donald Trump and the Federal Bureau of Prisons “to take the necessary steps to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus on our incarcerated communities.”

2nd pot event moves online

Meanwhile, Monday’s second annual Chicago Cannabis Health and Wellness Fair at Olive-Harvey College is also moving online.

Organized by the Chicago Cannabis Health Initiative, the event boasts pot-centric panels, demonstrations and presentations on a range of topics, including weed-infused cooking, cannabis rights and using the drug to deal with pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Donte Townsend, founder of the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an advocacy group co-sponsoring the event, will give a virtual talk on CBD & hemp, a plant he’s been cultivating at a huge growth facility in Putnam County.

Though Townsend said it’s “a little heartbreaking” that plans had to be changed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, he tried to look on the bright side.

“With what’s going on, we’ve found ways to be able to still offer a free service to the public about health and the beneficial uses of cannabis in its multiple forms that people can access from home,” he said.

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