Mark Giannotto: An ode to Hash Bash

BY MARK GIANNOTTO

Published March 23, 2006

It comes only once a year. The festivities last just one day. The event brings together people from many different backgrounds. It is one of the defining characteristics of this campus and city. Oh yeah - it's Hash Bash.

Morgan Morel

Yes, the name is a bit misleading, because I seriously doubt those who celebrate this glorious event actually smoke hash on Hash Bash. But it still stands in epic lore, at least in my mind.

But as great as Hash Bash is, it does have some serious issues associated with it. And seeing as this is my last column before one of the greatest days of the year, I figured I would write something to pump it up.

I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions about the event. Yes, it is a good excuse to get really high, but you could get high any day of the week if you wanted.

There is a real reason for Hash Bash, and it isn't to smoke egregious amounts of marijuana (although that's always fun). This will be the 35th year of the celebration, and a lot of people on campus still don't know what it's all about.

The event centers around a rally in the Diag, organized by the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws to gain support for the legalization of marijuana. This year the rally is taking place at high noon on April 1.

I came to a realization a few weeks ago about Hash Bash. It's been going on for 35 years, yet has been largely unsuccessful. Pot is still illegal. And people who smoke pot (don't call us stoners because that carries a negative connotation) are still left on the outside of political discussions. And then I realized what my Hash Bash experience was last year. Basically I got way too stoned to even attend the rally. So I was part of the problem.

And the fact that the rally is in the Diag is a huge damper, considering there are cops around and smoking pot carries a heftier fine on University property.

But all Hash Bash needs is a little more exposure. Something along the lines of a marketing campaign might do the trick.

So we'll start by creating a Hash Bash slogan. A catchy slogan, which could be plastered all over Ann Arbor. It could have positive effects on the attendance at this rally.

I just so happened to be watching "Dazed and Confused" the other night and came upon the perfect Hash Bash slogan.

It involves the character of Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey), and his first encounter with Mitch (Wiley Wiggins), the eighth grader who hangs out with all the high schoolers.

They enter a car and Wooderson asks Mitch, "Say man, you got a joint on you?" Mitch answers, "No, not on me, man". And Wooderson responds, "Well it'd be a lot cooler if you did."

There's your slogan: "You got a joint on you? Well it'd be a lot cooler if you did." That was easy.

Now that we've got our catchy slogan out of the way, we need to give Hash Bash some entertainment. The entertainment can provide a new platform to get the message out. What better way to do that than with a concert?

I mean, what band doesn't smoke pot? And what pothead doesn't like music? It's a perfect combination. I'm betting a good number of people who wouldn't ordinarily attend a rally for the legalization of marijuana would show up to see a cool concert.

I do realize the logistics of holding a concert can be tricky, but I'm not dealing with that stuff. I'm just throwing ideas out there for the cause. Hopefully someone else can do the heavy lifting.

Now, I've heard complaints about the stoners who come into Ann Arbor for this glorious day. If you haven't seen them before, it can be a shock that there are people like that still around. And I realize I have made fun of these people in prior columns, but that was only about Coke. I'm cool with them on everything besides that. And I can assure you, these people are not weird. There are plenty of people around the world just like them, and if you talk with them, they are really interesting. You don't have to agree with their thinking or their way of life, but you do have to realize what interesting people they are.

Last year at Hash Bash, I met this group who lived on a commune in Vermont, and they said their commune pooled its money together and bought a Starbucks franchise. They are aspiring entrepreneurs just like those straight edges in business school.

I feel like Hash Bash should be successful. There are so many people who smoke pot on a regular basis. And there's a lot more who smoke it occasionally. If we put every student at Michigan in the Big House and asked all who had smoked more than five times in their life to stand up, I bet 75 percent of the people would be standing.

Maybe I'm naive because I hang out with people who smoke, but in the words of my friend Becca, "C'mon, think about it. Almost everyone smokes pot."

And I bet each and every person reading this knew about Hash Bash before they came to the University. It was one of those "neat" things about the school when you applied. It made the University different in your eyes. It's part of the tradition here at school. There's Football, cold weather and Hash Bash.

So why are you turning your back on something that makes this place unique? Even if you completely hate marijuana and all it stands for, you have to admit that Hash Bash is really fascinating. There aren't many places where you could pull off something like the Bash. But that's why I love Ann Arbor.

So, I hope you light up a fatty for this writer, and support the cause. It's kind of insane that a plant is considered illegal in so many places around the globe. I'll see you in the Diag at noon next Saturday . if I'm not too high.

- Giannotto can be reached by e-mail at mgiann@umich.edu.