By Rene Kiss
MI First Election
Snow flurries and pot smoke blew through Ann Arbor as thousands of marijuana legalization supporters gathered for the 45th Annual Hash Bash on April 2.
Hash Bash is a two-part event. The annual marijuana protest takes place in the heart of the University of Michigan’s main campus in Ann Arbor, and the Monroe Street Fair is held two blocks south of there.
More than two dozen speakers addressed the crowd about the legalization campaign. At “high noon,” the first speaker took the stage: actor-musician Tommy Chong.
“I’ll tell you how cannabis really helped me, and it can help everybody—it gave me an appetite for food, which is really an appetite for life,” Chong told the crowd.
Chong, 77, was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and credits his use of marijuana as the main remedy for his treatments.
Former Detroit Red Wing Darren McCarty spoke about how marijuana helped him overcome alcohol and prescription drug addiction.
Activists stayed busy all day collecting signatures for a November ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Michigan. One campaign, MILegalize, collected an estimated 1,000 signatures according to chairman Jeff Hank.
“It was a quite successful event for us,” Hank said. “But we still have a lot of work to do.”
MILegalize planned to have a campaign fundraiser after Hash Bash at Bill’s Beer Garden in Ann Arbor, but it was cancelled due to inclement weather. The organization plans to reschedule the event.
Jake Manikas from Detroit, who favors legalization, attended the event Saturday for the third time.
“This movement is impressive,” Manikas said. “Even with the snow, this is still the biggest crowd I’ve seen.”
Hash Bash organizer Nick Zettel said Michigan’s criminalization of marijuana is a contributing factor of mass incarceration. Some cities have voted to decriminalize pot, and Hash Bash attendees plan to fight for more.
“It’s really all about education,” Zettel said. “We’re protesting unjust marijuana prohibition, but it’s an informative rally.”
Thirteen Michigan cities have passed laws decriminalizing the possession and use of marijuana including Lansing, Detroit, Mt. Pleasant and Saginaw. Ann Arbor has had its decriminalization law in place since 1972, and that made it home of the Hash Bash.