Rain showers didn’t deter the crowd of thousands of University students and Ann Arbor locals — sporting tie-dye and cannabis T-shirts — from taking to the Diag for the 39th annual Hash Bash on Saturday.
In addition to live music, street vendors and civil disobedience, the festival provides a forum for discussion of marijuana-related issues.
Each year, organizations lobbying for marijuana support adjust their Hash Bash agendas based on current events surrounding the issue.
LSA sophomore Emily Basham, a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said throughout this school year SSDP focused on educating people about the 2008 ballot initiative, which legalized medicinal marijuana use in the state of Michigan.
“Last year we were campaigning for Proposal 1,” Basham said. “This year we’re trying to facilitate a discussion about medical marijuana.”
Basham said Hash Bash attendees are more receptive to the group’s message than participants at other public forums.
“We know there is an audience here that’s interested in the things we have to say,” she said.
Basham said Hash Bash is an ideal place to educate people about marijuana laws and related incarceration rates — which the group believes are unreasonably high.
“The incarceration rate is astronomical, especially in the state of Michigan,” she said. “We feel that these drug laws disproportionately affect minorities.”
Sue Ferris, founder of Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, attended this year’s Hash Bash. Ferris said the rally provides a neutral setting for people to ask questions.
“We have a lot of senior citizens who are interested, but (usually) afraid to ask about it,” Ferris said. “They’ll come and buy the magazine instead.”
Ypsilanti resident Katie Mansfield said Hash Bash is “the most wonderful time of the year” because it fosters an atmosphere free of judgment.
“You can talk to different people and mix in ways that you would not be able to mix in other social situations,” Mansfield said.
Mansfield also said she thinks the social atmosphere is a lot calmer and less controversial than other public events and ultimately allows people to reconsider their opinions about marijuana users.
“It proves that all the stereotypes about stoners are not true,” she said. “We may not be the most energetic group, but that’s OK because nobody is fighting or arguing.”
LSA freshman Alex Zick said regardless of people’s differing opinions about Hash Bash, the event draws crowds that boost business for Ann Arbor restaurants.
“You can’t deny it’s good for local business,” Zick said. “Jimmy John’s was packed.”