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The 40th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival

In what has become an annual fall tradition in Madison, advocates for the legalization of medical cannabis marched down State Street Sunday in the 40th annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival.

Thousands attended to support the efforts for the legalization of medical marijuana; most attendees eventually marched down State Street and finished the weekend with a rally at the Capitol’s steps. A visible line of police monitored the crowd throughout the day.

Ben Masel, who organized the annual festival which attempts to educate on cannabis and hemp, warned participants of the legal danger some at the rally faced for smoking marijuana.

“We are here and have the right to assemble and protest the law,” Masel said. “But that does not make it actually legal to light up here… If you do within ten feet of a cop then you will be ticketed.”

Madison Police Sgt. Jason Ostringa said he was not aware of any arrests or citations related to the event on Library Mall.

The Harvest Festival is held annually from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3 and includes a line-up of bands as well as guest speakers such as Masel.

Is My Medicine Legal Yet? spokesperson Gary Storck and medical cannabis advocate Jacki Rickert, who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, urged supporters to continue advocating for medical marijuana legislation in Wisconsin.

Rickert and Storck led the discussion on the medicinal uses of marijuana, arguing it helped in cases of glaucoma, post traumatic stress disorder and many other uncomfortable illnesses.

Storck began by rallying the crowd and urging them to participate in the movement to legalize medical marijuana.

“If you don’t start sending a message now, it will never happen,” Storck said. “So show up and stand at rallies like this”. 

Many states throughout the country, including California and Michigan, have legalized medicinal marijuana.

Last
year Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee,
introduced what many saw as the most viable piece of medical marijuana
legislation in years: The Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act.

This year, members of the Wisconsin Legislature did not vote on the act,
which would have legalized medical cannabis with significant
restrictions on the sale and distribution of the drug.

Storck said Wisconsin had missed its chance of passing the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act last year and encouraged the attendees to support further efforts of making medicinal marijuana use legal.

Rickert spoke from a wheel chair about her illness and claimed marijuana helped her get through her pain.

“Cannabis is better, is safer, it’s one of the best things I’ve found out there,” she said.

Police blocked pedestrian and vehicular access to State Street in anticipation of the march to the Capitol. Many passers-by and patrons of businesses along the corridor watched as the parade continued down the street.

According to the Harvest Fest’s website, musicians including Nama Rupa, Rocker-T and Venice Gashouse Trolly played at the festival, which also held concerts at The Frequency and Majestic Theater throughout the weekend.

– Ryan Rainey contributed to this report.