When hundreds of marijuana fans crowded the Diag for the annual Hash Bash on Saturday, local law authorities made three arrests for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver during the course of the event.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily several days prior to Hash Bash, Division of Public Safety and Security spokeswoman Diane Brown described the division’s objectives during the marijuana-fueled festival.
“The event, itself, which usually has to do with having some speeches and collecting signatures — that part of it is an acceptable event for a student group to hold on the Diag like they do most every day of the year,” Brown said. “We don’t condone what this event sometimes attracts with the use of drugs or public consumption of alcohol.”
Brown said University officers often encounter individuals who are under the impression that the event provides a day of amnesty for illegal drug activity.
“There are some people who come to this who perceive … that marijuana and other drugs being displayed, transacted, possessed or used is permissible,” Brown said. “So the officers are there to ensure that anyone coming to the event is able to be there in a safe and secure environment.”
She added that there was a period of time where the majority of individuals attending Hash Bash were visiting Ann Arbor from other areas, and students were less likely to be found. Now, there is more of a mixture, with more students who participate each year.
Brown said the number of arrests varies every year, noting that the majority of those arrested tend to be visitors from outside the city, while student arrests are less likely to occur.
“Last year, the University police officers made one arrest during Hash Bash detail,” Brown said. “The year before, there were 16 people who were arrested for possession of suspected marijuana, and one person arrested for MIP. None of those were students. Very few students are arrested during this event. But they aren’t usually engaged in public displays of violations of law.”
Because they enforce state law, University officers must arrest those engaged in the consumption or possession of marijuana. According to a city ordinance, use of marijuana is a civil infraction resulting in a fine. The punishment an individual receives depends on jurisdiction where the infraction occurs.
“If you’re on Dominick’s property, you’re in the city; if you’re across the street on the Law Quad then you’re on University property,” Brown said. “If you’re on Monroe Street in the middle, that’s technically a city street under the enforcement of the city police, but on all streets that are city property and adjacent to the University, both police agencies have concurrent jurisdiction.”
To reserve events in the Diag, a group needs to have some affiliation with a University student group, staff or faculty. In the past, the University has attempted to restrict the presence of Hash Bash on its property, but judges have always ruled in favor of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana, the group responsible for orchestrating Hash Bash.
“Ultimately, the free speech aspect of the event was determined to make it something that could occur,” Brown said. “(The concern is) the illegal activity that the event tends to draw, not the free speech part of it by a student organization … the content of what they’re talking about doesn’t matter… but that at the same time, we don’t condone, nor do we need to allow the illegal activity.”