Thousands descend on Ann Arbor for iconic marijuana event

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Matt Dubriel holds up a legalize marijuana sign at the 43rd Annual Hash Bash in the Diag, Saturday. Buy this photo

By Max Radwin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 6, 2014

Ah, spring is in the air … As was something else on Saturday.

This year’s Hash Bash, an annual celebration of all things hemp and marijuana, took place on the Diag and Monroe Street. Around 8,000 people attended this year’s event, a significant increase over other recent bashes.

The number of attendees at Hash Bash has increased every year since the use of medical marijuana was legalized in 2009. In 2010 and 2011, nearly 5,000 and 6,000 were in attendance, respectively.

Since 1972, individuals in possession of marijuana in Ann Arbor have only been charged with a small civil-infraction fine. But according to Charmie Gholson, the founder of Michigan Moms United to End the War on Drugs, the rally for total legalization remains relevant.

“The direction that this rally has taken is dramatic,” Gholson said. “It’s always been a smoke-in, it’s always been a rally of the people, by the people and for the people. At this point, we’re no longer strictly on the menu regarding our lives and how our legislation impacts it. We’re at the table. We have our place at the table.”

Though the city of Ann Arbor has some of the most lenient penalties for individuals caught in possession of marijuana, the University Police adhere to state laws, even during Hash Bash.

But interactions were generally civil on Saturday. University Police made only one arrest while attendees enjoyed vendors and live music.

This year’s Hash Bash, now in its 43rd year, is not the same event it was in 1972. Activists are fighting the same cause with different tools.

“The Internet has democratized the media for us and given us tools with which to organize,” Gholson said. “It’s an absolute flood of change right now. There’s no stopping it. Legalization is a forgone conclusion.”

Rick Thompson, a contributor to pro-marijuana publications like The American Cultivator, The Burn Magazine and The Compassion Chronicles, encouraged attendees to take pictures with their phones and post the pictures on social media platforms.

“We’re all going to take photos of what’s going on at Hash Bash — are you ready?” he asked the crowd. “But that’s only part one. Now we Facebook those photos.”

Law student Reid Murdoch, executive director of Law Students for Sensible Drug Policy, collected signatures for state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) and 2016 cannabis legalization efforts.

“It’s a beautiful event,” Murdoch said. “It’s the longest-running drug policy event in the country. I’m just really honored to be a part of it. It’s a cultural tradition.”