In the midst of a war abroad, some are attempting to put an end to a different type of war here at home, a battle that has been going on since Richard Nixon’s presidency – the war on drugs.
Call them stoners, pot heads, marijuana aficionados, hippies, or liberal political activists – in any case, they’ll be turning out in full force this weekend for the 32nd Ann Arbor Hash Bash.
“We do get a much larger crowd than any other event or rally on campus. We get many more people than the anti-war rallies, we get many more people than the affirmative action rallies,” said long-time organizer Adam Brook. “Why? Because people love weed. They show up for weed.”
Like previous years, the main event takes place at noon tomorrow on the Diag, following an 11 a.m. rally and march in front of the Federal Building on Liberty Street. The event will be followed by a Hash Bash after party on Monroe Street, near Dominick’s Restaurant.
The Department of Public Safety and the Ann Arbor Police Department plan to increase patrols tomorrow for the events. AAPD Sgt. Ed Stuck said there will be 15 extra officers on duty, while DPS Sgt. Melissa Overton said DPS will also be significantly increasing its force, which will patrolling the Diag and surrounding sidewalks.
While only 4,000 to 6,000 people are expected for the noon celebration, approximately 30,000 to 50,000 people are expected to visit Ann Arbor this weekend to join the en masse smoke-in.
Those visiting the Diag and other University property – which includes the sidewalks surrounding the Diag – will be subject to harsher penalties for smoking marijuana than those visiting the rest of the city.
A person caught smoking marijuana on University property may be arrested for a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine, but a person caught on city property will be given a $25 ticket for a civil infraction. At last year’s Hash Bash, more than 50 people were arrested by the departments – only one was a University student.
Several Hash Bash organizers are working to ensure that this year’s event not only attracts people to the city, but also carries a strong political message.
“Many individuals last year dubbed it the ‘Trash Bash,’ arguing that the event contained no political seriousness and was more about a bunch of middle-aged stoners joking about getting high and whining that this privilege was not legal,” said LSA junior and Hash Bash organizer Dan Sheill, a member of Michigan Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and chairman of the College Libertarians.
“But drug prohibition affects all of society, not just the rough 10 percent of the American population that smokes on a regular basis,” he said, adding that he believes the war on drugs creates an unnecessary financial burden on American taxpayers.
“The drug war is expensive and requires thousands of dollars a year to house each convicted non-violent possessor,” he added.