In December 1970, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Alan Ginsburg and other popular political activists came to Crisler Arena for a freedom rally in support of John Sinclair, a Michigan resident who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of two marijuana joints.
Several members of this rally decided that on April 1 of the following year, they would all converge on campus for a national “smoke-in.” This event, which is now known throughout the University and the country as “Hash Bash,” will celebrate its 30th anniversary Saturday.
The main event will take place on the Diag from “high noon” until 1 p.m., when there will be numerous speakers and activists, said Master of Ceremonies Adam Brook.
Speakers include Keith Strout, a marijuana reformer Elvy Musikka, one of eight people who can obtain marijuana legally in Michigan for medical reasons and activist leaders John Sinclair and Chef Ra.
Although the event will take place on the University campus, Brook said it is a community event and is predominantly attended by non-students.
“Though the University controls the Diag, this is a city event, not a University event it just happens to take place on campus,” Brook said. “This is an up-from-the-people event that doesn”t require a permit except for amplified sound.”
The University is responsible for approving Diag utilization permits, but officials do not support the event.
“The University does not approve of the Hash Bash,” said University spokeswoman Julie Peterson. “We are in support of free speech and expression so we will not be shutting the event down but we will be enforcing the law.”
Brook said he expects up to 10,000 people from around the world to come to the Diag this weekend, depending on the weather. Saturday”s forecast calls for temperatures reaching 70 degrees with a chance of rain.
In past years, the event has been categorized by students and visitors smoking marijuana on the Diag. Ann Arbor”s penalty for marijuana possession is a civil infraction punishable by only a $25 fine, but because the University campus is state property it is governed by state laws.
“If you are coming out, don”t smoke any pot on the Diag,” Brook said. “People usually think it”s going to be a small fine, but are surprised when they are hauled off to jail.”
Marijuana possession on campus is a misdemeanor with up to a $2,000 fine and one year in jail, said Diane Brown, spokeswoman for the University Department of Public Safety, who added that DPS is planning increased patrols for the event.
“We need to staff to ensure the safety and well-being of people on our campus,” Brown said. “We need to ask people to recognize the laws that govern our campus.”
Organizers of the Personal Responsibility Amendment initiative drive will also be on campus this weekend. The initiative is an attempt to legalize personal use of marijuana and to use funds currently being spent fighting drug use on education and treatment instead.
Michigan State law mandates that for an initiative to end up on a ballot, petitioners must receive 300,711 signatures in 180 days, said attorney Gregory Schmid, author and director of PRA Michigan.
The drive will start tomorrow and will utilize and recruit volunteers to obtain the required number of signatures by Oct 3.
“This affords people who are already going to smoke marijuana a lawful alternative to obtaining drugs without ever meeting a drug dealer,” Schmid said. “We just allow the private use of homegrown marijuana away from kids, cars and the public.”
Schmid said this new initiative will take the stigma away from marijuana.
“Instead of sensationalizing it so it is a forbidden fruit that kids can”t wait to try, we want to make it boring,” Schmid said.
Brook suggested that anyone who is coming to Hash Bash to express their personal views should be careful while taking advantage of their personal freedom.
“If you really are going to consider smoking, marijuana is civil disobedience,” he said. “Come out and be as civil and disobedient as possible.”