How Real THC Appeared at a Regular Chicago Bakeshop
Chicago’s Wake-N-Bakery infuses the neighborhood with Delta-8 THC pizzas and pies.
The Wake-N-Bakery is a bakeshop where you can get an espresso drink and a THC-infused scone to go. Yes, real THC, and no, it’s not a consumption lounge. Nor is it a licensed dispensary selling flower, edibles, or vapables. It’s just a regular ol’ cafe and bakery—one founded by a former medical professional with a confident grasp of the increasingly intriguing, sort-of-legal cannabinoid Delta-8 THC.
Delta-9 THC is the cannabinoid that is most responsible for the high we associate with traditional weed. Today’s cannabis and hemp laws define THC as “delta-9 THC”—that’s the part that must be under .3% in order to be treated as legal CBD that can cross state lines. Delta-8 THC is just one chemical bond different from Delta-9 and about half as potent. But it does do something, and that something is not yet regulated in most states. For Brianna Banks, the woman behind Chicago’s Wake-N-Bakery, Delta-8 THC was the Trojan Horse to normalizing cannabis use.
“In October of 2019, I’d lost my job following a medical leave,” says Banks. “I had a colleague who knew that I was homeless with two kids and money was tight, and he mentioned the shop next door to his business was opening up at the end of the month. I put a business plan together and presented to many investors, but my colleague, M. Lofty, ended up joining me as a business partner. He too had worked in the medical field, as a doctor, and we both saw the positive effects of cannabis and hemp. We wanted to do something that no one else was doing and to pioneer the normalization of CBD, Delta-8, and Delta-9 THC.”
The Wake-N-Bakery officially opened its doors at the start of 2020, and it wasn’t until August—after consulting a lawyer, researching farms and fine prints, and setting an age barrier of 21 for the baked goods—that they became the first bakery in the country to sell real THC-infused products. Cookies, cakes, pistachio crème brûlée—a smorgasbord dosed with varying ratios of hemp-derived THC and CBD. All (technically?) legal. At least until federal regulators start caring more about the way the Farm Bill and its phrasing around Delta-9 THC is being interpreted.
“Yes, we are a little worried about the Farm Bill being retracted,” says Banks. “However, by that time, we hope to have the Delta 9 license. We have applied for the license but have yet to hear the results.”
The menu (and the colorful, hand painted exterior) may be bold, but Banks doesn’t cut any corners. The hemp products come from KifCure, a local grower and processor in Illinois, and COAs for all that product are always on hand for customers interested in seeing test results.
Whatever regulatory risks are at hand for Banks, her customers couldn’t be more grateful for the whimsical addition to the neighborhood. In the fall, Banks partnered with a local pizza shop for a THC-infused pizza night, selling 22 whole pies for takeout the first night. During the week of Thanksgiving, they sold about 30 infused holiday pies. Banks has since brought on a pastry chef and an executive chef from Johnson and Wales College of the Culinary Arts to help craft new delicacies and delights, and, thanks to one of her socially savvy employees, the bakery went viral on TikTok in October.
“When we first advertised, people kept asking, ‘Is this real?’” recalls Banks. “We kind of laughed, but we also understood that we are the first and that we could pave the way for other businesses. The community has been super supportive through this difficult year. Now we get a lot of 21-yr-old’s who want to celebrate their birthdays here though.”