Craving a hemp sandwich?


“We gather to change the laws, not to break them.”

This slogan aptly describes Chicago’s Windy City Hemp Fest, an event expected to bring 10,000 marijuana enthusiasts to Cricket Hill this Saturday and Sunday. The purpose of the two-day festival: Have fun while peacefully protesting marijuana laws.

The free event is organized by Windy City Hemp, a Chicago-based volunteer organization, and will take place from noon to 9 p.m. both days.

“We feel more harm comes to society from the law than from marijuana use,” said Caren Thomas, director of the Windy City Hemp Development Board. “We spend more money on prisons for nonviolent people than we do on schools.”

The Hemp Fest has been held in one form or another every year since the late 1970s, according to Thomas. The annual gathering first met in Lincoln Park’s free speech area in 1978. It took place there for several years before coming to Cricket Hill in 1986.

The festival will feature several pro-marijuana speakers, including Elvy Musikka, one of seven remaining federally supplied marijuana patients. Musikka is expected to talk about the drug’s medical value. She believes the marijuana she received under California’s Compassionate Use Act helped stabilize her vision after she was diagnosed with glaucoma.

Dan Solano of Police Officers for Drug Law Reform will also be making an appearance at the festival. Solano also has used marijuana for medical purposes and is expected to share his opinions on how drug legislation should be changed.

But the event isn’t all talk: Attendees can sign a petition supporting Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Bill and register to vote.

Windy City Hemp also will communicate its message through the continuous live music at the festival. Some 16 bands aligned with the event’s cause will perform, including Chicago bands Old No. 8, Milkplow and Genral Patton and His Privates, as well as the Minnesota band Big Tasty.

The event also boasts a variety of cannabis cuisine — but none of the dishes contain THC, the primary intoxicant found in marijuana. Food items are sold by individual vendors, and include hemp pasta, hemp ice cream, and hemp nut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The Hemp Fest has been met with opposition in past years, most notably in 1996 when Chicago denied Windy City Hemp access to public parks, but Thomas stresses the importance of determination.

“It’s always important to stand up for what you believe in,” Thomas said.