It was all about Higher Love, music and drag queens at Evanston’s elegant drag and cannabis event at the Palmhouse, 619 Howard St., in the local kick-off to Pride Month. 

Higher Love, hosted by High-minded Events, a Chicago-based firm, invited freelance “bud tenders,” dispensaries and other cannabis companies to share products with guests at the event on Wednesday, June 1. The energy was high, everyone was high, and free joints and bong rips were being distributed among more than 100 people. 

Smoking was permitted outdoors in the courtyard near the Palmhouse in an area surrounded by a fence. (To comply with Smoke-free Illinois, people can only smoke on private property concealed from the public.)

Drag Queen Kenzie Coulee performed a provocative routine at the Higher Love event. Credit: Debbie-Marie Brown

The night was hosted by drag queen Bambi Banks Coulee, with performances from Khloe Coulee and Kenzie Coulee – all leading up to a finale by one of Chicago’s top queens, Denali Foxx, who was featured on Season 13 of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

There were food and edibles available for attendees, who purchased a $60 general admission ticket, which included Bourbon BBQ Pork sliders, French fries, Avocado shooters with Pita Bread and a dessert. 

Over at the bar, partygoers could imbibe beer and infused beverages, using Squeeze, a concentrated THC product. SESH, another group in attendance, provided a rewards-card type system to help monitor and maintain responsible guest consumption of cannabis.

Inside the Palmer’s House during the cannabis pride event. Credit: Debbie-Marie Brown

High-minded Events is a cannabis event and hospitality company co-founded by Phil Cooper and his business partners, who are longtime veterans of the hospitality industry and producer of special events. It is the first freelance budtending company of its kind in Illinois. 

“I started this company because I believe in cannabis and I believe that events play a powerful role in changing people’s ideas of what cannabis is,” Cooper said. “If we can design an experience that’s approachable and elegant and even educational, then we can change people’s minds.” 

Cooper and his partner developed a SafeServ course specifically for cannabis required of all his bud tenders, which among other things teaches them how to identify and address overconsumption. 

Madeline Mosso bud tends at the Vape tap station. Credit: Debbie-Marie Brown

Madeline Mosso, a bud tender at the event and an employee of High-minded, said she was one of the first company hires in May 2021. But her work is so new, some people don’t understand.  “Half the time I say I’m a bud tender. And people think I’m a bartender and I just let them believe that because it’s too hard to explain,” she said. 

Vendors included Chill Haus, a social club for cannabis consumption and Aeriz, an aeroponic company that grows cannabis above ground, with the roots exposed, which they say enables more consistent quality throughout the bud.

There were also various high-end cannabis consumption devices that High-minded provided.

“The fanciness of our company is that we have all this fancy equipment. So we have this like gravity bong that looks like an hour glass and fills up like multiple times,” said Mosso, from the Vape tap station. “We also serve edibles. And we’re also here to educate people. Not all of our events are like this where people are experienced smokers. Some of them are for weddings, or like little small events.”

Bahkhtin Patel, 25, from Chicago, told the RoundTable she loved how the event celebrated open consumption. Patel also liked the safety of the venue as well. “It doesn’t happen often. And there are some places that do lounge type settings. But it’s not enough, “ Patel said. “A lot of people do walk the streets and just openly smoke but it’s like knowing that you can still get a ticket. …  Even though you’re a patient or you’re a recreational user. It’s just bogus.”

Debbie-Marie Brown is a reporter and Racial Justice Fellow at the Evanston RoundTable. They cover the local reparations initiative, Black life in Evanston, and the 5th ward. Contact Debbie-Marie at