Hash Bash attendees come to Ann Arbor defying UM warnings
When a cloud of smoke swirled into the air and people puffed at their joints, vaporizers and bowls, it was almost as if a pandemic wasn’t happening at the same time.
On Saturday, cannabis advocates hosted a personal, mischievous hash bash event at the University of Michigan’s Diag in Ann Arbor. The “official” 50th Hash Bash event has been held virtually for the past two years, but more than 300 people still gathered at the university to celebrate in person.
The “rogue” hash bash comes at a time when the state reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases since December 4th. Federal officials also warned of a possible fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.
Royal Oak’s Adam Brook, a longtime host of the Hash Bash, organized the in-person version because there is no “virtual” Hash Bash, he said.
Brook said he created a Facebook page and announced the date, time and place for a personal hash bash. According to the Facebook page, over 800 people took part.
“We know we can socially distance ourselves and mask people. It was a simple post that got blown into what you see today,” Brook said. “People come out because they know we have something to say. It’s a protest and they want to show their support and they are here.”
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UM officials issued a statement last week saying that, on the one hand, they “always support citizens’ right to freedom of expression to assemble in public spaces”; On the other hand, they “do not tolerate drug use on our campus” and the campus police would be on the go “to offer everyone on our campus a safe environment, especially in the midst of a pandemic”.
Despite the strict warning, the incident was generally undisturbed by the police. At the beginning of the event, various speakers spoke through a megaphone while inhaling a bag of vaporized marijuana smoke.
Some people have traditionally chosen to attend the Hash Bash in person. Many people said a virtual experience hadn’t hit them.
Trevor Goodman, 36, of Ann Arbor, said he joined Hash Bash in seventh grade in 1995. He said that day is about freedom and peace.
“I’ve never missed one (hash bash). I still came here last year when there were seven people out here,” he said. “It’s a family ritual. My brother died a long time ago and that was our thing. I’ll just get down here no matter what. Rain, sunshine or snow, I’ll be here.”
Throughout Saturday people sat on blankets and took marijuana from all kinds of devices. Many participants were maskless or took off their masks briefly to smoke.
For some people, this was their first hash bash experience. Blake Grams, 25, of Big Rapids, said they wanted to attend the event because “it’s important and it’s a big message to people”.
Despite the changes COVID-19 made to the event, Grams said they appreciated their first hash bash experience and it was “amazing”.
For other people, Hash Bash was a business opportunity. Deejayy Quinn, 20, and Brooke Streicher, 22, both drove from Toledo to sell their art. They said their art was in line with the ideologies and philosophies behind Hash Bash.
“Our art is mostly about living free and eating marijuana, but it’s also about painting what you want to paint and what comes to mind,” Quinn said.
Streicher said Hash Bash is a large gathering of people, so it is an opportunity for like-minded people to see their art.
When the rebel bash started around noon, the virtual and the official event started at the same time.
Former WJBK TV presenter Anqunette Sarfoh hosted the virtual Hash Bash event. The livestream included pre-recorded clips from Michigan lawmakers, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, Democratic US Representative Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, and Rep. Yousef Rabhi of D-Ann Arbor.
Cosmic Knot brought the tunes along with Michigan’s Laith Saadi and Tom Wall. Drag queen and cannabis lover Laganja Estranja, a well-known competitor of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, also performed.
Around 130 people took part in the event. John Sinclair, an original hash bash contestant for half a century, spoke to the virtual crowd from his couch. Now that medicinal and recreational weeds are legalized, Sinclair said the next step is to “get the police off our backs”.
The virtual event also included a clip of Michael Thompson’s January release after serving a 26-year prison sentence on nonviolent cannabis charges. Student organizations, legal groups, and cannabis stores across Michigan have been featured in clips that convey a consistent message about ending the war on drugs.
This year’s 50th Hash Bash divided people about the way they would attend the event. Virtual or in person, the motive for celebrating Hash Bash was the same: to protest and have the right to smoke weed.
The author of the Free Press, Bill Laitner, contributed to this report.
Contact Slone Terranella: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SloneTerranella.
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