Since 1972, activists have been staging the Hash Bash
On Saturday, April 6th, a crowd of over 10,000 gathered in the “Diag” of the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, MI to take part in the 48th Hash Bash, the oldest cannabis rally in the nation. With recreational, adult use of recently enacted in the Great Lakes State, the event saw its biggest turnout in its history.
Since 1972, activists have been staging the Hash Bash. In the beginning, it was an annual, informal act of civil disobedience that drew hundreds of cannabis lovers participating in a friendly smokeout. But over the years, it has transformed into a major activist event drawing politicians, celebrities and leading marijuana advocates.
This year, politicians, organizers and activists from across the state spoke to the crowd, with Gov. Gretchen Witmer providing a recorded statement of support played over the loud speakers. U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell also spoke to the huge crowd.
“We’ve got to decriminalize marijuana and get people out of jail that are in jail,” Dingell said. “ Law enforcement has told me for years that they can’t do their jobs because they’ve been focusing on something that accomplishes nothing. And let’s be honest. I’m looking at this crowd, I don’t care what race, what color, what gender, whatever you are, you’re all smoking marijuana. But if your color happens to be black, you’ve got a four more times likelihood of having been put in jail, had an unfair jail sentence and for too long.”
A number of other local elected officials were among speakers, including several members of the Ann Arbor City Council, state Rep. Sheldon Neely, state Sen. Jeff Irwin, and state Rep. Yousef Rabhi. Former state Rep. David Knezek, the legislative affairs director for the Attorney General of Michigan, spoke on behalf of AG Dana Nessel’s office.
With the passage of legalization, speakers advocated regulation, research, record expungement, exonerations, criminal justice reform and more. Keith Stroup, the founder of NORML, advocated a “common sense” attitude toward regulating cannabis. Top state activists implored the crowd to continue the legalization battle reminding attendees that the ability to use cannabis is actually a battle for basic civil rights.
The legendary poet/activist John Sinclair performed a spoken word tribute extolling freedom, while NBA great John Salley, a former Detroit Piston, was greeted by a loud ovation when he spoke and spelled out his support for cannabis.
Although it was a celebration, it was not lost on speakers, nor the crowd, that considerable work lies ahead: specifically, legalization at the federal level and having its Schedule I classification removed.