Welcome to the Cannabis Issue 

Welcome to the Cannabis Issue, a homage to the misunderstood herb that for decades has been stigmatized, criminalized, loved, and enjoyed by many. Since Illinois legalized recreational cannabis in 2020, dispensaries, novelty cafes, and events promoting a 4/20–friendly smoking environment have sprouted around the city—and the South Side is blazing its own trail. 

In this issue, you’ll read about the Latinas making waves in the cannabis scene, including an artist who draws on her Mexican American heritage and love of pot to make unique, beautiful ceramics. We also talk to a therapist who combines art, music, and weed at a popular event. We’re diving deep into the high life, with stories that cover everything from social consumption events like Runners High Chicago to unconventional gatherings like Pilsen’s Safety Meetings, a creativity-sparking scrapbook. And we take a hard look at the industry with a story about the illusion of choice in a market largely monopolized by big players and another about dispensary deserts on the South Side. 

With 4/20 on the horizon, we’re here to applaud the progress of the cannabis industry while keeping a close eye on the road ahead. This issue is a celebration with a touch of critique, acknowledging how far we’ve come while recognizing the imperative to push the envelope even further. So grab your favorite strain, settle in, and let’s explore the vibrant cannabis culture flourishing in the face of adversity on the South Side. —Jocelyn Martinez-Rosales

P.S. Nobody tell my mom I smoke weed, please. 

Farewell, Vocalo

Last Wednesday, Chicago Public Media (CPM) announced that the company will lay off fourteen employees, discontinue Vocalo Radio’s broadcast by May 1, and shutter its storied podcast unit (the birthplace of the hugely popular pod Serial and home to treasures such as Nerdette and The Rundown). CPM justified the cut by citing Vocalo’s lack of audience growth (“only 11,000 listeners weekly”) and general financial constraints. After the announcement, the Sun-Times reported that in 2023, CPM gave its CEO Matt Moog a nineteen percent pay increase (to $633,310) and debuted a $6.4 million studio at WBEZ’s Navy Pier office. After May 1, listeners can still tune in to a limited version of Vocalo programming via livestream at vocalo.org/player and their app, vocalo.org/pp

Broadcasting over Chicago’s airwaves since 2007, Vocalo has established itself as “Chicago’s urban alternative,” broadcasting tunes that embodied “what Chicago sounds like” 24/7 as the city’s only National Public Radio music station. Vocalo focuses on independent R&B, hip hop, jazz, and house music and was created to reach more racially diverse and younger audiences than other NPR stations. The station regularly featured home-grown artists and was among the first radio stations to play Chicago artists who have since become household names, such as Saba and NoName (who years later was featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series). Initiatives for engagement with South and West Side listeners included Spanish-language programs on weekends and an annual storytelling workshop for community members.

What the cuts signal in terms of CPR’s commitment to diversity and the inclusion of communities on the South and West Sides remains to be seen. Decades ago, the saying “Last hired, first fired” proliferated to describe the precarity of employment for Black workers compared to their white counterparts. The decision to cut Vocalo is something of a callback to that: communities that traditional media turns to in attempts at diversity, equity, and inclusion are all too often abandoned when times get tough. 

Fatal traffic stop in Humboldt Park

On Tuesday, April 9, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) released body-camera footage showing Dexter Reed, a twenty-six-year-old Black man, being slain by Chicago police officers on March 21 in Humboldt Park. Reed was driving near Ferdinand and Hamlin when five plainclothes police officers in an unmarked vehicle pulled him over for allegedly not wearing a seatbelt. The officers surrounded the car and began shouting at Reed to roll down the windows and put his hands up. When Reed apparently didn’t comply, the cops pointed their guns at him. One officer was struck in the forearm after Reed allegedly shot first, according to COPA. The four other officers then shot at Reed and his car, firing ninety-six rounds in forty-one seconds. They continued shooting even after Reed exited the car unarmed and fell to the ground. 

“I am personally devastated to see yet another young Black man lose his life during an interaction with the police,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said at a press conference on Tuesday, adding that the officers involved have been placed on a month-long administrative leave. 

The night before the press conference, dozens of community members at a public hearing demanded CPD Supt. Larry Snelling fire the officers and do more to reduce pretextual stops, in which police pull over drivers for minor traffic infractions (such as not wearing a seatbelt or having expired vehicle registration) as an excuse to look for weapons or drugs. A recent report by Impact for Equity found that in Chicago, pretextual stops have skyrocketed in recent years. The report also found that Black drivers were far more likely to be stopped than white drivers. Reed’s fatal encounter was apparently one such pretextual stop. Snelling promised the crowd that change is coming but was light on specifics. The shooting is being investigated by COPA and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

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