Rally faces cold, low turnout

BY ALESE BAGDOL
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 5, 2007

Organizers of tomorrow's Hash Bash hope the Ann Arbor tradition will help convince lawmakers to decriminalize getting high.

Low temperatures and low student turnout, though, could get in the way.

Temperatures in the 30s and a chance of snow are in the forecast.

Last April, a crowd of about 900 people composed of both elderly hippies with dreadlocks and giddy high school students gathered on the Diag to participate.

But the attendance at Hash Bash, which used to number in the thousands, has declined in the last several years, and increasingly fewer University students are attending, said Adam Brook, the event's organizer.

In the past eight years, 217 people have been arrested at Hash Bash. Only four of them were University students, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said.

"The demographic at Hash Bash keeps aging," she said.

Brown said Hash Bash isn't as student-oriented as many people think.

"The event draws a lot of people from out of town who do not understand or respect the values upheld on this campus," Brown said.

But LSA freshman Nathaniel Morton said he thinks Hash Bash is a worthwhile tradition. Many fraternities and houses on campus hold Hash Bash parties, complete with live music. Although the number of students on the Diag may have decreased, it remains a widely celebrated campus holiday.

"It brings the campus community closer together," Morton said.

Brook said he warns people every year that smoking marijuana on the Diag could cost them heavy fines because it is on University property.

Marijuana possession in the city of Ann Arbor is a civil infraction that carries a $25 fine for the first offense, a $50 fine for the second offense and a $100 fine for each subsequent offense. But a fine for marijuana possession on University property, which includes the Diag, is a minimum of $100 or 90 days in jail for each offense.

Brown said additional police will be patrolling the Diag on Saturday.

"We expect people to comply with the law every day of the year," she said.

The main purpose of Hash Bash, though, is to encourage reforms in marijuana laws, Brook said.

The Michigan Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is sponsoring the event this year. The organization backs ballot initiatives to legalize the drug.

Hash Bash is not officially affiliated with the University. Brook said he usually coordinates with student organizations to reserve the Diag. But Susan Wilson, the University's assistant dean of students, said event organizers have not reserved the Diag Saturday.

Brown said the lack of a reservation shouldn't be a problem for the group as long as no other student group has reserved the Diag for the same time.

"As long as Hash Bash does not interfere with a previously-organized activity, participants are free to gather on the Diag," she said.

Engineering senior Pam Reasor, who said she isn't sure if she will go to Hash Bash, said the weather will probably not deter anyone who planned on attending the event.

"People are hardcore about it," Reasor said.

The tradition began in 1972, the year after Ann Arbor activist John Sinclair was arrested for possessing of two joints of marijuana.

The Supreme Court re-examined Sinclair's case three days after a rally held by John Lennon and Yoko Ono at Crisler Arena. Protesters at the rally claimed Sinclair's incarceration was cruel and unusual punishment and the result of police entrapment.

Sinclair was released from jail on Dec. 13, 1971, four months before the first Hash Bash.