Attendees at the June 27, 2021 Higher Love Pride Event could try an outdoor cannabis bar with flower and concentrates. Credit: Brad Spirrison / Grown In

Hundreds of cannabis industry professionals and plant enthusiasts convened last Sunday, June 27 on private property two blocks north of Chicago’s United Center for an afternoon of cannabis consumption, electronic dance music, performative drag, and to probe the city’s limits on conducting public cannabis consumption events.

Green Thumb Industries, Acreage Holdings and Progressive Treatment Solutions were among the cannabis sponsors that provided edibles, concentrates, and flower for attendees aged 21 and over at the Higher Love Pride Event organized by Chicago-based High-minded events.

Catering company Paramount Events hosted the gathering, where the ticket price was $75 for food, non-alcoholic beverages, entertainment, and swag bags. Tickets to redeem up to 10 milligrams of edibles, including drops from cannabis company 1906 that bring on a buzz within 30 minutes, were also provided to attendees. Additionally, Higher Love attendees were treated to an outdoor cannabis bar that included curated flower and concentrates. Illinois-licensed budtenders from multiple Chicago area dispensaries provided tutorials for anyone interested in imbibing from non-combustible bongs or understanding how the dabbing process works and impacts the body and mind. 

Organizer Phil Cooper, a veteran designer of luxury weddings and corporate events, said he operated within the parameters of existing state law throughout the planning process. The cannabis provided to attendees was purchased from Chicago-based licensed dispensaries and shuttled onsite “from multiple staff members on multiple days”. 

At no point, he claims, did his ad-hoc transporters violate state-sanctioned possession limits. To shield consumption activities from the general public, a $6,000 8-foot fence was installed along a main thoroughfare, Lake Street. Attendees had age and identification verified twice upon entry, by two different staffers.

“If cannabis is legal in the state and we can operate within the compliance that we know,” Cooper surmised, “there is no reason why we can’t have events.”

Cooper added that he sought guidance on what was permitted from the City of Chicago in terms of hosting a private consumption event of this scale. However, city staff never responded. A request for comment sent to City of Chicago pot policy advisor William Shih was not responded to by publication.

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.