Hash Bash organizers hope to increase turnout

BY RACHEL KRUER
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 1, 2005

The tradition of Hash Bash in recent years has been up in smoke. In recent years, dwindling numbers of attendees have characterized the event. In 2003, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said that only 650 people attended the rally for the legalization of marijuana. In previous years, the number had been in the thousands.

This year, Hash Bash will be organized by the University chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — an organization that seeks to decriminalize marijuana offenses and hopes to bring Hash Bash’s attendance back to what it was in previous years.

Josh Soper, an LSA junior and director of the University chapter of NORML, said he hopes to increase attendance, but that the purpose behind Hash Bash remains to educate people about marijuana reforms.

This year, NORML has arranged for a lineup of speakers and live bands from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Diag. Bands Hazy Jane and Budda Fulla Rymez will open as the live entertainment.

Political science Prof. Albert Price, who will speak at noon tomorrow, said he will focus on how the punitive ramification are more harmful than the effects of marijuana.

“At some point, the cost supercedes at the point. Young adults are the most likely to be hurt by policy than the drug,” he said.

Price added that Alaska voted to legalize marijuana as evidence that even a state dominated by a Republican legislature condoned this.

Even amidst the celebration, marijuana laws will be enforced. Those visibly under the influence of marijuana can receive punishment of 90 days in jail and a $100 fine, Brown said. Possession of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable with up to one year in jail or a $2,000 fine.

These regulations are set by state laws that the University follows and that DPS enforces. Off campus, however, local laws regarding marijuana are much more lax. Within the city limits of Ann Arbor, a marijuana violation merits a $25 fine.

“We discourage people from smoking on the Diag,” Soper said. “It’s not a good idea, considering the discrepancy between University and city ordinances.”

Due to the decrease in attendance last year, only 14 Hash Bash participants were issued tickets for legal indiscretions involving open canisters of alcohol and minor in possession citations, and there were six marijuana arrests.

Brown said DPS is preparing for more people this year because of the live. She said DPS is specifically preparing for problems that come with massive groups and concerts such as fighting and excessive drinking.

Yet most of DPS’s encounters do not involve University students.

“This event does not traditionally attract University of Michigan students,” she said. “It attracts people out of Ann Arbor who do not understand our rules and ordinances.”

In the past six years, DPS has issued tickets to 212 people at Hash Bash. Out of those citations, Brown said, only four were University students.

Around 1 p.m., Monroe Street Fair will host live music from John Sinclair with his group Glowb, The Process, Troubleman, Rootstand, Mary Eyez and other performers.

There will also be vendors from whom students can purchase hemp products, innovations in glassware and tie-dyed shirts.

Soper said this year the Hash Bash Diag celebration will also be broadcast on NORML’s website in order to reach a broader audience.