Hash Bash might not be able to secure Diag

BY CHARLES GREGG-GEIST
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 26, 2008

For 36 years, the Diag has played host to a mass gathering of marijuana enthusiasts in early April. They've turned out in droves through sun, rain and last year, snow. But this year, the organizers of the annual Hash Bash rally fear the University may put more of a damper on their event than precipitation has in the past.

Two weeks ago, LSA sophomore Andrew Kent, president of the University's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, went into the Office of Student Activities and Leadership with plans to reserve the Diag for Saturday, April 5, Hash Bash's scheduled date. He was told another group had already booked the entire space for that date.

"I asked what other dates were available in April, and they said none," Kent said.

Diag Administrator Jaden Felix said the space will be unavailable for much of the month because of Spring Commencement, which will be held in the Diag this year.

Adam Brook, who heads the Wayne County chapter of NORML, said rescheduling the event for a later date wouldn't be satisfactory, because Hash Bash has traditionally fallen on the first Saturday in April.

Asked whether Hash Bash could be moved to another weekend, Brook said, "What, change Christmas? No, you can't do that."

Richard Birkett, a member of Michigan NORML who has advised student groups applying for permits in the past, said Hash Bash has experienced scheduling conflicts before. But he said the event's organizers have always been able to negotiate with the other group planning an event for that day. The problem this year, he said, is a University privacy policy that forbids Diag administrators from disclosing which groups have registered for space on the Diag at a certain time.

The policy for Diag scheduling on SAL's website reads simply, "SAL does not give out the name of a group who has reserved the DIAG prior to you coming in - plan ahead." Felix said this means that he can't tell Kent which group has the Diag reserved on April 5, and also cannot contact that group on his behalf, because it would be violating NORML's privacy.

Whether or not the event is registered, Brook said he is confident marijuana enthusiasts will show up that day.

"The Hash Bash community is made up of all types of people, and they don't care about all this politics stuff," he said.

Birkett said because many people will come for Hash Bash, the other group planning to use the Diag April 5 should negotiate with NORML.

"They need to know what's going to happen - 2,000 stoners might just show up at their event," he said.

Organizers have used several methods to figure out which group might be holding an event that day, but to no avail.

Brook said the only thing that could turn Hash Bashers away from the Diag on the first Saturday in April would be bad weather.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said she wasn't concerned about Hash Bash disrupting another event.

The organizers of this year's Hash Bash had planned to fly in John Sinclair, a noted drug policy reform activist, from his Amsterdam home to speak at Hash Bash. Sinclair's 1969 arrest for marijuana possession that inspired liberal icons like John Lennon, Bob Seger and Allen Ginsberg to come to Ann Arbor for the "Free John Now Rally" in 1971. That event evolved into today's Hash Bash. But Brook said organizers may not be able to afford to bring Sinclair if they aren't able to hold a Diag bucket drive, which he said is their principal source of funding.

As for obtaining a permit, Brook said he wasn't sure what route organizers would take.

"The only recourse we seem to have is taking the University to court, and we're trying not to do that," he said, adding that Hash Bash organizers have sued the University for a permit before and been successful.

"This is now the 37th annual Hash Bash. They've never stopped it before and they're not going to stop it now," he said.