Activism, not celebration: Hash Bashers should push for social change

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published April 5, 2002

There was once a movement with meaning. It was an activist movement, which organized people with a serious dream in mind. It sought to make a definitive change in U.S. policy. That movement has since degenerated from a proactive body into a nostalgic celebration. The movement has become content simply to exist instead of push for the original goal.

The spirit of Hash Bash was - and should be - one of activism. Hash Bash was conceived in 1971 in response to the 10-year jail sentence given to John Sinclaire for possession of two marijuana joints. Since then, Hash Bash has gotten national attention for being one of the most active lobbies pushing for legalizing marijuana. In recent years, however, Hash Bash has received relevant criticism for becoming entrenched as a festival celebrating drug culture instead of retaining its earlier, politicized purpose.

The case for legalizing marijuana is strong. The most obvious reason for this is the hypocrisy implicit in marijuana's illegal status - it is a drug with effects equal to, or even less than, those associated with tobacco and alcohol.

An even more compelling argument centers around the negative externalities associated with illegal drugs; Jeffrey Miron, a noted economist at Boston University, has written extensively about the relationship between an illegal market for drugs and crime. He, along with a growing body of economists and policy makers, argue that the crimes associated with illegal drugs, such as theft and murder, are not caused by the use of a drug but rather the fact that the drug is illegal. Legalizing drugs would both lower the cost of drugs and - most importantly - bring drug sale, revenue and quality control under the jurisdiction of the government.

There are tangential issues related to marijuana legalization as well. Hemp, for example, can not only provide an eco-friendly substitute for many products, but can also revitalize the United States' struggling agricultural sector. Hemp can be used to make paper, clothing, food additives and even fuel.

These very important issues are certainly brought up at Hash Bash. This year, the main event at Hash Bash will be a debate regarding the pros and cons of marijuana legalization. Yet, the focus of Hash Bash has, for the past several years, shifted from academic activism for marijuana legalization and toward a celebration of marijuana culture and, sadly, Hash Bash's own history.

Hash Bash should not be pleased to exist. Its purpose should not be lost amidst a celebratory sheen since its goals have, for 31 years, been unfulfilled.