Chants of “Free the Weed!” could be heard and cannabis flags were raised high on the Diag on Saturday afternoon as an estimated 6,000 people gathered to participate in the 46th annual Hash Bash. Leading activists, medical researchers, community leaders and citizens spoke on behalf of the support and legalization of marijuana consumption, followed by live music.
One of the speakers at the event was 30-year-old Zahra Abbas, a University of Michigan-Dearborn student who, after being prescribed medical marijuana for her severe epilepsy, has been seizure free for almost two years. Abbas left the University three years ago because of her medical condition, but said she was able to return to her studies this past fall because of medical marijuana.
“I was never seizure free without the cannabis,” Abbas said. “The most I made it seizure free before was three months and that was right after brain surgery. Without brain surgery, I would only make it a week or something at a time, and that would be a good week, but on the 13th, it’ll be two years seizure free.”
Abbas said, as a student, she has been met with an overwhelming amount of support from faculty and students who support the use of medical marijuana.
“I even had one teacher that, he was really happy about it,” she said. “He was a psychology teacher and his wife used it.”
Richie “Free the Weed” Clement, the legislative assistant to Detroit City Councilmember George Cushingberry Jr. (D–District 2), spoke at the event, urging people to vote for representatives who support the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana usage.
“If you don’t support weed, you’re not the one we need!” Clement chanted.
Clement discussed the significant amount of misunderstanding he feels surrounds the plant and the implications of its consumption.
“F—k the box, think outside the box,” Clement said. “It’s time that people wake up and put to rest all the lies that’ve been told about the plant, it’s time to get away from this 1939 bullshit mentality.”
Jerry Spencer, director of Great Lakes Bay Region of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an organization that advocates the legal use of marijuana, also spoke about the merits of petitioning the government.
“We’re the ones with the petition for the legalization of recreational marijuana here in the state of Michigan,” Spencer said.
An couple from Novi, Mich., who requested to remain anonymous because they were talking about drug use, outlined the routine for their celebration.
“We smoked before, in the mosh pit, walking out of the mosh pit,” they said.
One of the two, a prospective student, talked about how Hash Bash makes her feel about the University.
“I was going to apply anyways, but this is just an added bonus, I guess,” she said. “The atmosphere was pretty cool because everybody was doing the same thing.”
Chris Zane of Washington, Mich. said he hopes Michigan will legalize weed for recreational use, and added that Hash Bash offered him a chance to spend time “just chilling with my buddies, smoking.”
Patrons of Hash Bash included people who were involved with the cause to various degrees. Another woman, who requested to remain anonymous, was in Ann Arbor for her first Hash Bash.
“We’ve been growing for the last three years and we kind of wanted to see what it was about and, honestly, it’s not what I thought it was,” she said.
She attested to the broad scope of patrons in attendance.
“I mean it’s actually super controlled and I’m really surprised there’s actually a plethora of people here,” the woman said. “Honestly, I was surprised to see some older people here and it’s kind of nice to see a variety of people down here, to be honest.”