At 'less political' Hash Bash, an Arquette cameo

BY ALLISON PINCUS
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 8, 2007

Standing on the steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library, the site of countless activist speeches over the years, actor and director David Arquette addressed the Diag on Saturday afternoon.

As part of the 36th annual Hash Bash, Arquette was advocating for the legalization of marijuana.

"I got lighters, rolling papers and blunt papers I'll be passing out," Arquette said, drawing cheers from the crowd.

But his appearance had another, less activist purpose.

Arquette was also using the event to promote his new film about pot, "The Tripper."

His visit to Ann Arbor was one of many on a promotional tour for the film, which opens April 20, a date many consider an unofficial holiday for dedicated marijuana users. Other stops on the 16-city tour included Philadelphia, where Arquette reportedly appeared onstage with a leather-clad Christina Aguilera, a pop singer.

For some, his appearance is a sign of a slight departure from the spirit of Hash Bash, which began in 1972 to celebrate the release of Ann Arbor local John Sinclair, who in 1969 was sentenced to 10 years in prison for getting caught with two marijuana joints.

"It's become less political and more commercialized," said a man advertising a brand of rolling papers.

The man, who was dressed in a cardboard container designed to look like a box of Zig-Zag rolling papers, refused to give his name, saying he preferred to be called "Zag Man."

After an hour worth of speakers, the crowd progressed to a makeshift marketplace of pot paraphernalia on Monroe Street, where attendees listened to music and browsed a row of vendors hawking jewelry, colorful bags, rolling papers and pipes.

But the event hasn't shed its political focus.

Many speakers called for the legalization of marijuana and told the crowd to "light up."

"Where's the freedom?" one speaker said.

One speaker told protesters to take action by joining their local branches of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

He said anyone with enough money to buy one bag of marijuana can afford to join NORML. A membership costs $15.

"It's not enough to come out here and freeze your ass off once a year," he said.

A giant paper marijuana leaf on a stick floated above the crowd as people chanted "free the weed" and clapped their hands in unison.

The event was smaller than it has been in previous years, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said.

Brown said the crowd reached about 400 people at its peak. Last year, about 750 people showed up, she said.

The crowd was orderly and lawful this year, she said. DPS has arrested 217 people at Hash Bash in the last eight years - but none on Saturday, Brown said.