The Ann Arbor Police Chief has a message for visitors to Hash Bash: “We are in the middle of a pandemic.”

ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor Police Chief Michael Cox has a message for cannabis enthusiasts planning to visit town on Saturday to take part in the Hash Bash smoking protest.

“We’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” he said, citing recent spikes in COVID-19 numbers.

Open smoking marijuana in public is not legal and even less appropriate during a pandemic, Cox said.

“So I would just ask people to be respectful of one another, of their fellow citizens, at this time we are in,” he said.

While the current organizers of the annual Hash Bash marijuana rally in Ann Arbor plan to hold the event virtually for the second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, former organizer Adam Brook plans what he considers to be the “official” 50th Annual Hash Bash: A smoke-in protest at the University of Michigan Diag on April 3rd.

Although UM warns it won’t condone marijuana use on campus, smoke-in is still an issue, Brook said.

“There’s no reason not to be out there on Saturday,” he said. “The weather will be good. There is a lot of space for people to create social distance. “

Over 760 people posted “50th Anniversary” on Brooks’ Facebook event page. annual Ann Arbor Hash Bash “replied they” go, “while another 1,500 replied” interested. “

Brooks said he had already smoked a couple of Joints on the Diag with about half a dozen other people on Thursday to commemorate the anniversary of the first hash bash, which was April 1, 1972. They didn’t have any run-ins with the police, he said.

“We were live on Facebook and smoked weed. Nobody cares, ”he said. “I haven’t seen a single university policeman.”

While UM police are empowered to make arrests on campus under state law for public marijuana use, the city police have long been more tolerant.

Ann Arbor decriminalized marijuana in the 1970s, making it a civil violation that can be punished with fines, much like a parking ticket.

Cox said on Saturday whether city police will be allowed to issue tickets for public marijuana abuse violations in city-controlled areas off campus, “We’ll certainly be on the move, but we expect people to do the right thing.” And in a pandemic, we really expect you to do the right thing. So we need people to do that. “

He added, “I’m not here to threaten anyone or anything like that. We just want people to do the right thing for the right reasons. We are a community. “

There was no personal hash bash in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic had just occurred, people were cautious and there was an order to stay home.

A year later there is no stay home order, many people have been vaccinated and many more have learned to navigate the pandemic with social distancing and masks.

Given these factors, and the fact that local marijuana dispensaries are promoting the sale of cannabis products, some predict the city could see a return of Hash Bash-related marijuana tourism on Saturday, even if there isn’t a full rally and one The crowd of several thousand people in the world is Diag like in previous years.

Although the pandemic continues, people are feeling freer to be out and about, Cox admitted.

“And the warmer weather doesn’t help,” he said. “But if you look at the COVID numbers, they go up every day here in Michigan. We’re not out of the woods, but that’s how people act. And that’s why I encourage people to be aware that we are in a pandemic and the effects they can have on one another. “

While recreational marijuana sales and use are now legal in Michigan, Cox offers this advice: “You can buy it any day of the week, so take it home and enjoy it there.”

But when someone lights up in public on Saturday, Cox said, “I hope they smoke through their mask.”

There are actually face masks with a small hole for smoking, Brook said.

Brook said he was not impressed with UM’s warning that smoking would not be tolerated on campus.

“They never tolerated smoking on campus,” he said, although he acknowledged that UM police looked the other way during the last personal hash bash in April 2019 when it came to using and selling marijuana on the diag.

“But there were other years when they didn’t arrest anyone and there were other years when they arrested 200 people,” Brook said.

Saturday’s smoke-in is a protest against marijuana laws, including banning smoking in public, and it would be a violation of the first amendment if police tell them to leave, he said.

“You have the right to assemble,” he said, adding that he didn’t think the police would try to get them anywhere.

“Do you really think the University of Michigan wants to look bad these days by pulling people away and arresting them for weeds?” he said. “I can’t imagine your officers wanting anything to do with it.”

The UM public safety department recently released a statement that the UM police will be on site to monitor the diag and create a safe environment for anyone who congregates at the hash bash smoke-in, such as this would be the case in any similar situation.

“There are still COVID restrictions on campus,” the statement said. “It is important that everyone does their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 by wearing face covers, social distancing and limiting the size of the congregation.”

The state has COVID-19 orders in place through April 19 that limit outdoor gatherings to no more than 300 people. Face masks may be worn at all times unless they are eating or drinking while sitting in a designated area in groups of no more than six people, at least three feet apart and not mixing.

Brook said he hopes the city will one day fully accept Hash Bash as a festival that brings many visitors to the city.

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