Hash Bash, the annual Ann Arbor rally to support the legalization of marijuana, was in full force Saturday afternoon, drawing a crowd that event organizers estimated reached 3,000 to 4,000 people.
Carrying signs declaring “Hemp for Peace” and “Smoke pot not Iraq,” community members, University students and out-of-town participants protested both the war on drugs and the war on Iraq at the 32nd annual event.
Traditional festivities included the rally at noon on the Diag and an after-party on Monroe Street.
Some participants wore necklaces of plastic hemp leaves, while others dressed up in costumes – including a self-proclaimed “Jointmann.”
“A lot of people dress up because they like the anonymity,” said event organizer Adam Brook.
Brook, who also served as the master of ceremonies for the event, said Hash Bash was well attended despite the cold weather and snow, although he said warmer temperatures would have drawn a larger crowd.
“The University can try to stop us, the city can try to stop us, the federal government can try to stop us, the state can try to stop us, but nobody screws us like Mother Nature,” Brook, an Ann Arbor resident, said.
This year’s event also saw a low number of arrests for possession of marijuana, which Brook said was unlike previous years.
“We’ve taken extraordinary steps to prevent arrests,” he said.
“We get the crowd to sit down (on the Diag) and then the cops can’t get by because there’s a wall of people, which is good because there were hundreds and hundreds of people smoking pot,” he added.
Department of Public Safety Sgt. Stacy Richmond said only one participant was arrested for possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor that could include penalties of one year in jail or a $2,000 fine under state law.
Additionally, DPS cited three participants for youth tobacco misdemeanors and two vendors for violating city solicitation ordinances.
A youth tobacco violation is “like a ticket,” Richmond said. “They could get 90 days in jail, but it usually turns out to be a fine.”
Richmond added that the vendors were each fined $50 and ticketed, but declined to say what they were selling.
Ann Arbor Police Department Sgt. Laura Anderson said the AAPD did not arrest or cite anyone as a result of Hash Bash. All arrests and citations took place on the Diag.
Brook said he was displeased that anti-war protesters met on the Diag at the same time, and was disappointed that anti-war activists never support the Hash Bash efforts.
“There’s been a war on drugs for longer than a war on terrorism or a war on Saddam (Hussein),” he said.
Brook expressed pride in the force and attendance of Hash Bash. “This is the largest rally on campus,” he said.