Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival-AKA Madison Hempfest

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    The Madison Cannabis Festival-The Grandaddy of All Weed Fests

    The Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival (“Festival”) is sometimes called the Madison Hempfest. Whatever you choose to call it, this fest has been held almost every year since 1971, and the reason it wasn’t held in 2020 was because of Covid-19.

    It is a three-day event and it was last held, during the October 2-4 weekend, at the Library Mall, in Madison, Wisconsin.

    It features concerts and various vendors. More importantly, it also has a multitude of speakers, from the following area:

    • Cannabis Friendly Politicians
    • Growers
    • Medical Marijuana Activists
    • Marijuana Advocacy Organizations (i.e. Norml)
    • Industrial Hemp Representatives
    • and much more.

    What You Can Expect

    This article will cover the following:

    • A brief background of Wisconsin’s current marijuana laws
    • Introduce to the Festivals founder, Ben Masel
    • Tell you why this, small, midwest cannabis event is so important.

    Wisconsin’s Cannabis Laws

    Wisconsin Weed Laws

    As of October 2021, cannabis, both for recreational and medical use, is still illegal in the state of Wisconsin. The penalties for weed possession depend upon the number of times that you’ve been arrested and convicted for possession of cannabis.

    Madison’s weed Festival is definitely needed if Wisconsin is ever going to get with modern society and legalize cannabis for all purposes.

    Recreational and Medicinal Use

    In Wisconsin, cannabis is only allowed medically for low-THC cannabis oil. So, medical marijuana patients can be arrested if he or she does not use state-approved cannabis oil. The first-time possession penalty, for any user, is a potential six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. A second arrest and conviction for weed possession will result in a felony, that can cause a three and a half years prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

    Current Legislation

    Since 2021 there have been numerous tries to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana for Wisconsin. Its main advocate is Democratic Senator, Melissa Agard-Sargent. Senator Agard has tried to pass some form of weed legalization since 2014.

    Senator Agard’s proposed legislation would legalize both recreational and medical use of weed. Legal weed would be will be taxed and half of the tax revenue will go to invest in redevelopment for communities that have been traditionally hitting hardest by marijuana prohibition. However, as Wisconsin’s state legislator is republican controlled any attempts to pass any legalization statutes have failed.

    Cracks In the Armor

    As stated, weed is illegal in Wisconsin. However, in 2020, Madison, Wisconsin became the first city to legalize marijuana. Madison’s law allowed those 18 and up to possess up to 28 grams of weed. Also, cannabis consumption is allowed in both public and private spaces. The only major restriction is that you cannot smoke weed within 1,000 feet of any school.

    A Short History Of The Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival

    The Festival is a 501 registered non-profit organization, has been around since 1971. According to Wikipedia, it is the oldest hemp/cannabis festival in the United States.

    It started as smoke-in at Wisconsin’s state capitol rotunda. And, except in 2020, it has been held annually. In the 80s they started to include music and in the ’90s this festival started becoming quite popular.

    The original purpose of this Festival was to promote marijuana legalization. However, like cannabis and cannabis-related products are becoming increasingly more accepted, this Festival has the added purpose of advocating for the health and safety of medicinal and recreational cannabis smokers. Additionally, this Festival also advocates for cannabis-related products like CBD and Industrial hemp.

    Ben Masel

    Without Ben Masel there would likely not be a festival. Therefore, I felt it was important that included this brief biography of the Festival’s founding father Ben Masel. (1954-2011)

    Masel could be described as a social justice prodigy as he was started protesting was so famous or infamous to some that before he turned 18 he was placed on President Nixon’s enemies list.

    Masel is primarily known for his cannabis legalization activism. He also was a Vietnam war protestor and a first amendment advocate. He has been described by some as a professional protester. One thing is for sure though Masel did not mince words and you knew his views.

    Political Campaign

    Masel also ran for office as the Wisconsin Governor in 1990 And, like Gonzo journalist, Hunter Thompson, Masel ran for Dane County, Sherrif in 1992. He was unsuccessful in both campaigns.


    Some of Masel’s, other, notable accomplishments are the following:

    •        Norml-Director of Wisconsin’s Norml Chapter

    •        Weedstock– Masel organized the Weedstock festival,

    •       Norml Lifetime Achievement Award-Received a lifetime achievement award, in 2011-“A Lifetime of Oustanding Work In Advancing the Cause Of Legalizing Marijuana”.

    •        Ben Masel Day– The Madison, Wisconsin, City Council, Declared April, 20th (420) as Ben Masel Day.

    •        Freedom Fighter- In August 2011, he was named the Freedom Fighter of the month by High Times magazine.


    Weed may be legal in the city of Madison, Wisconsin. However, cannabis is still strictly prohibited in the state of Wisconsin. As a result, a commercial cannabis dispensary or cannabis farming operation does not sponsor this festival. Instead, this Festival is mainly sponsored by general marijuana advocacy organizations like Norml, CBD manufacturing companies, and hemp farmers.

    A local vape shop, CBD dispensary, and the Northern and Southeast chapters of Norml are examples of 2021’s Hempfest sponsors.


    It cannot be a festival without live music. So, in the 1980s, this Madison weed Festival offered live music. In 2021 the Festival had 12 bands scheduled. Some of the bands that played are listed below.

    •        Bongzilla

    •        Natty Nation

    And ten other more mostly local bands appeared. If you want to explore any of the above bands, Click Here.


    Most importantly, the three-day festival features numerous, cannabis activists, and also cannabis and cannabis-related industry representatives. The following is a list of the type of speakers who were scheduled to appear in 2021 in the following areas.

    •        Hemp Cultivation-Bill Hawkins has been an organic farmer for over 40 years, and he is now a hemp advocate and farmer for his home state of Nebraska. His goal is to promote hemp farming as a means to help uplift the Nebraska economy.

    •        Politicians-Several politicians known for advocating marijuana legalization have appeared. One of the most notable, is Wisconsin, State Rep Melissa Agard-Sargent. Sargent, multiple times has sponsored legislation that would legalize and tax weed both recreational and medicinally.

    •        Advocates-A range of cannabis advocates ranging from medical marijuana advocates, recreational cannabis advocates to a CBD manufacturer spokesperson is listed as featured speakers.

    Final Thoughts

    You might be wondering why I decided to write about Madison’s Marijuana Festival. After all, New York, Seattle, Boston, and even Oakland have a bigger cannabis event. Do not get me wrong, those events are important, and I may examine those at a later date.

    However, I decided it was important to write this post about Madison’s Wisconsin’s cannabis‘ Festival for two reasons.

    The first reason is that Madison’s cannabis Festival was the first festival of its type. From the 1971 smoke out at Wisconsin’s Capitol Rotunda to now, Masel’s Festival has come a long way. The second reason is that cannabis enthusiasts should know who Ben Masel was. After all, it is quite amazing that Masel started this Festival at the age of 17, and was a founding father for marijuana legalization.

    I hope you found this article interesting and for more info on Madison’s festival and other festivals please follow the hyperlinks.


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    • Have you previously have had subpar growing results?
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