Ann Arbor’s 50th Hash Bash will be digital, but a smoking protest is planned
ANN ARBOR, MI – The organizers of the annual Hash Bash marijuana rally in Ann Arbor plan to host the event virtually for the second year running, with a long list of speakers and entertainers via online livestream.
Former organizer Adam Brook, however, says he won’t sit out another year and is planning what he sees as an “official” event: a smoking protest against the University of Michigan Diag.
“If you ask me, Hash Bash is happening on the Diag, so I’d say the official Hash Bash is on the Diag, and these people who are afraid of appearing in public are doing something virtual now,” Brook said . “I’m at war with these people.”
Brook has an event page on Facebook called “50. annual Ann Arbor Hash Bash announcing plans for a face-to-face protest at the traditional location on Tuesday, April 3rd around noon.
He’s not sure how many people will actually show up or what will happen other than cannabis enthusiasts lighting the joints and chatting, and there is no scheduled program of speakers or entertainers. But so far, over 500 people have replied that they are “going” and another 1,100 have said they are “interested”.
Brook encourages anyone who shows up to follow COVID-19 social distancing guidelines and wear masks.
“There won’t be anyone going around joints – that would be a fool today – but you can safely expose and smoke a joint, just like you can sit in a restaurant and expose,” he said.
As for the official 50th Hash Bash event, the people behind the virtual edition have been the official Hash Bash organizers for the past decade, said organizer Nick Zettell, calling what Brook is doing “a grassroots effort.”
A story of hash bash and marijuana activism in Ann Arbor
As COVID-19 continues to spread, the organizers of the virtual event want to make sure they are doing their best, both as stewards of the Hash Bash tradition and as community members protecting attendees, Ann Arbor residents, and UM students Said Zettell.
“The last thing we would ever want is to help spread this virus during this pandemic,” he said. “It would be absolutely irresponsible of us to organize a major event like Hash Bash has done in the past.”
The Hash Bash Planning Committee bills the online livestream as a free variety-style production featuring activists and entertainers from across the state and across the country. Former Fox 2 news anchor Anqunette Sarfoh is master of ceremonies.
Speakers include Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, former Detroit Red Wing Darren McCarty, former Detroit Lion Calvin Johnson, U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, Senator Jeff Irwin, and John Sinclair, a poet whose detention for Pot led to it the first hash bash in 1972.
Musicians from Michigan such as Laith Al-Saadi and Tom Wall provide entertainment, as well as a performance by the cannabis enthusiast and drag queen Laganja Estranja.
Brook said he is planning no speeches or entertainment for his April 3rd protest on Diag and he doesn’t expect it to be a big rally like Hash Bash has done in the past.
“I expect John Sinclair to show up. He and I will be there and I can’t tell you much else besides, ”said Brook.
“It’s a smoke-in. By being there, we are protesting the current laws associated with marijuana. That’s how it started, it was always about that, and you can’t protest virtually. “
I remember a tense argument with the police at the 1996 Hash Bash
One of his handles on current laws is that it’s still illegal to smoke a pot in public, Brook said.
“The protest won’t end just because a few laws can be passed in our favor,” he said.
There won’t be an amplified sound system as the university requires a group of students to get approval for it, but no approval is required to install it, Brook said.
“The Constitution is our permission to assemble,” he said, adding that the right to protest does not go away in a pandemic. “So I don’t expect any concern from the police.”
UM Deputy Police Chief Melissa Overton referred questions about the protest to the university’s public affairs department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The last personal hash bash in April 2019 – the first involving marijuana legalized in Michigan – drew a record crowd of well over 10,000 people from across the state and beyond.
Biggest hash bash of all time: With the legalized pot, the Ann Arbor rally attracts a huge crowd
While Brook estimates that thousands more could congregate on the Diag in the next month while staying socially aloof, he doesn’t really want to attract a large crowd, he said.
“There are hardcore activists that will show up,” he said. “Of course this opposing group decided to call us traditionalists. If I’m seen as a traditionalist, then they’re newbies. We don’t get this virtual thing. “
The virtual event will commemorate successes and focus on the need for federal legalization and repairing damage caused by the war on drugs, organizers said.
They are working with companies to make a successful broadcast that is expected to last several hours and will benefit two charities: the John Sinclair Foundation and the Michigan Cannabis Prisoner Freedom Fund.
“We are very excited about the virtual hash bash,” said Zettell. “We really want people to have the opportunity to attend Hash Bash and see many different speakers – politicians, athletes, local community members – in a virtual protest against the current marijuana laws that have yet to be reformed.”
Among the factors that contributed to the decision to virtually re-host Hash Bash included the identification of a new COVID-19 variant in Michigan and the fact that it was identified on the UM campus, organizers say.
If some people skip the virtual broadcast and go to Diag, Zettell hopes they will do so in a spirit of protest against cannabis laws. But that will be a focus of the virtual event, including speeches from former prisoners talking about how brutal the war on drugs was and policy updates to lawmakers, he said.
“We’ll be able to talk about state laws and local laws that need reform because Michigan marijuana law isn’t perfect,” Zettell said. “And that includes some extinction issues that we really want to see, as well as better access to research, as well as promoting aspects of social justice in the cannabis industry – involving color communities and communities disproportionately affected by the drug war . “
While he’s practically focused on that right now, Zettell expects a major personal hash bash in April 2022.
“And while this is the 50th Hash Bash, next year will be the 50th anniversary of the first Hash Bash, and we really hope it will be a blowout and a really exciting community day,” he said.
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