While April Fools may have been Friday, Ann Arbor businesses are not fooling around when it comes to Hash Bash, an annual event on the University of Michigan Diag that brings together thousands of marijuana enthusiasts and advocates of legalization from across the country.
Last year marked the 50th anniversary since the event started in Ann Arbor. Since 1972, people from all over Michigan have traveled to Ann Arbor with the goal of advocating for marijuana legalization and decriminalization.
Although the event brought was virtual for the past two years, 2022 was completely in-person and a huge success. According to the event’s website, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people attended, bringing a huge influx of prospective customers for local businesses.
This year’s event included a variety of speakers including Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and a variety of activists. As Hash Bash grew in size and popularity the Monroe Street Fair –– which features live music and street vendors, began in 2002 –– was started by independent organizers. The fair has since expanded to encompass parts of Tappan Avenue as well as the eponymous Monroe Street. Since the street fair occurs during Hash Bash, they receive a plethora of clientele while local businesses –– both marijuana-related and not –– have an opportunity to run a booth at the fair.
Apart from the festivities on Monroe Street, other businesses told The Daily they expected a change in demand with the weekend events. Frances Todoro-Hargreaves, executive director of the State Street District neighborhood association, said in an interview with The Daily before the event that quick-service businesses, including New York Pizza Depot (NYPD) and Ben and Jerry’s, see an uptick in traffic with Hash Bash attendees. However, Todoro-Hargreaves also said the impact of other businesses during Hash Bash varies.
“You’re going to see people coming in and out, and they do really well on Hash Bash,” Todoro-Hargreaves said. “You’ll see an impact, but it’s more the quick-serves that see it.”
According to Todoro-Hargreaves, preparing for the potential increase in customers looks different for different businesses. For NYPD, Todoro-Hargreaves said servers there will simply pick up the pace when customer flows increase.
“(Other businesses) will do what they can to prepare if they feel that they’re going to get (impacted),” Todoro-Hargreaves said.
With the focus of Hash Bash being marijuana, Ann Arbor dispensaries prepared for increased business over the weekend. Michael Metcalf is the brand manager for C3 Industries, the parent company of the High Profile chain of cannabis shops which opened an Ann Arbor location in March 2020.
Metcalf said he expects an increase in out-of-town customers coming to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hash Bash.
“We believe we will see customers in the store coming in from Hash Bash or the Monroe Street Fair to pick up or refresh their supplies for the day,” Metcalf said. “We’ve also rented out two pedicabs for the day, offering free rides to our Packard Street store to/from Hash Bash and the Monroe Street Fair for anyone needing to make a weed run.”
While many businesses are expecting increased patronage, not all have been heavily impacted by Hash Bash in the past. Jason Berry, who coordinates act booking for the Blind Pig on First Street, said to The Daily that Hash Bash has very little impact on their business because it is a daytime campus event and doors don’t open for shows at the Blind Pig until 8:00 p.m.
With Michigan legalizing recreational marijuana in 2018, the relationship between businesses and Hash Bash has changed since the founding of the event, according to Rackham student Matthew Dargay, President of University of Michigan Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Dargay said legalization in Michigan has resulted in a regulated marijuana market, as opposed to an underground black market, that promotes the safe use of marijuana.
“It has created regulated markets … and with regulatory standards come safety standards, labeling standards, and stable prices,” Dargay said.
Dargay also advised customers to support a dispensary owned by a person of Color.
“If you can, support your local BIPOC-owned weed dispensary,” Dargay said. “the dispensaries owned by communities that were hit the hardest by the war on drugs need our financial support.”
Since more businesses are beginning to embrace the recreational use of marijuana, Todoro-Hargreaves said many businesses are looking to embrace the event, now that marijuana is legal recreationally in Michigan.
Todoro-Hargreaves said in an interview before the event took place on Saturday “Let’s work together in this to make a successful event and have a successful impact on our neighborhoods.”
Daily staff reporter Levi Herron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.