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Posted on Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Weather, more than anything, will determine size of this weekend's Hash Bash

By James Dickson

On Saturday, Ann Arbor will play host to the 39th annual Hash Bash. But while longtime emcee Adam Brook is confident that the stoner fest will draw a crowd, others, including former '60s activist John Sinclair, the man most identified with the Hash Bash, are more skeptical.

"The Hash Bash is a shell of its former self," Sinclair said. "In its heyday, the Hash Bash meant going to the Diag, sitting in drum circles and smoking pot together," Sinclair said. "There was no time limit - we went all day. Now you come and listen to speakers for an hour."

Hash Bash 1.jpg

Rain or shine, the Hash Bash will go on. But will it draw a crowd?

Lon Horwedel | The Ann Arbor News

The first Hash Bash, in 1972, was held as a celebration after the success of the 'Free John Now' campaign," the Michigan Daily writes. Sinclair was arrested in 1969 for giving two joints to the undercover police, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served 29 months, and became a cause celebre for the pot legalization movement, both locally and nationally. John Lennon famously headlined the "Free John Now" benefit concert at Crisler Arena in 1971.

"The Diag is the closest thing we have to a town square in Ann Arbor," Brook said. "If you had something to say, that's where you said it."

In its prime, the word-of-mouth gathering attracted more than 10,000 participants. Attendance dwindled in the middle of the decade but has rebounded over the last two years.

"You won't see the Hash Bash mentioned on the city's web site or the convention center web site," Brook said. "We don't even give the date, time or place on our web site. All the people who come out, that's all word-of-mouth."

This year's Hash Bash will be different than in the past.

The traditional protest march, from the federal building on East Liberty Street and South Fifth Avenue to the University of Michigan Diag, won't happen this year, Brook said. That's because there's little left to protest.

Medical marijuana is now legal in 13 states, including Michigan, which was the first midwestern state to legalize medical pot. There is also an effort afoot in California to legalize marijuana outright.

Last year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would not raid or prosecute marijuana growers or users acting in compliance with state law. Many of the major battles on marijuana have already been won.

"We don't have a beef with the feds," Brook said. "We don't have a beef with the city. We have nothing to protest."

This year the Hash Bash will meet at noon on the Diag, where the crowd will listen to an assortment of guest speakers.

At 1 p.m., hash bashers will depart the Diag for the Monroe Street Fair, which will feature music, vendors selling paraphernalia, and, according to Brook, "copious amounts of marijuana smoking."

Sinclair said that he'll be reading some of his poetry at the Monroe Street Fair and that he'll perform with the Macpodz Saturday night at the Hash Bash afterparty at the Blind Pig.

Diane Brown, spokeswoman for the U-M Department of Public Safety, said that the university is "not really" worried about the Hash Bash this year, though the event has seen a resurgence in recent years. As recently as 2007, Brown said, the Hash Bash drew a meager crowd of 250.

But upwards of 1,500 people attended the bash last year, according to DPS estimates. If the weather cooperates, that number could be surpassed this year, Brook said.

Hash Bash 2.jpg

The U-M Department of Public Safety is expecting an uneventful Hash Bash this year.

Brown cautioned Hash Bash goers not to view the gathering as an amnesty day for smoking pot on campus. "Our officers enforce state law, not the Ann Arbor statute," Brown said.

Under Michigan law, first-time smokers can be sentenced to up to one year and prison and a $2000 fine. But in Ann Arbor, first-time smokers are charged with a civil misdemeanor and given a $25 ticket. Repeat offenders must pay $50 the second time and $100 for each subsequent ticket.

As such, Brown said, attendees of the Monroe Street Fair would be wise to avoid illegal activity on the north sidewalk near the Law Quad, which is University property.

Brown added that public safety officers will handle smoking by registered medical marijuana patients on a case-by-case basis. "This is a not a free-for-all," Brown said.

Retailer response to the Hash Bash is mixed.

42 Degrees, a downtown headshop on E. William, will offer grab bags for the Hash Bash, but will reserve its discounts for April 20, when most pieces in the shop will go for 20 percent off.

Stairway to Heaven, another downtown headshop on State Street, was more tight-lipped, saying nothing more than that it will offer a "surprise" for its guests on Saturday.

Gro-Blue, a supplier for "indoor gardening" tools for would-be marijuana growers, will have staffers on the Diag, offering discounts to customers who patronize the shop on West Liberty Street.

Sinclair and Brook might disagree on the viability of the Hash Bash at this point, but both men agree that weather, more than any other factor, will determine the size of Saturday's crowd.

"There's a misconception that the Hash Bash has fallen off, that people just aren't interested," Brook said. "But weather is the biggest factor, especially for patients who have a tough time moving around in colder weather.

"Put it this way: If it's 50 degrees at 10 a.m., the Hash Bash is going to be huge," Brook predicted. "If it's 20 degrees and 50 is going to be the high, it'll be tough. We're just hoping the weather cooperates."

Ann Arbor is expected to have a high of 76 degrees on Saturday, with a low of 48.

James David Dickson can be reached at



Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 10:52 p.m.

As sad as this sounds, being RAISED in Ann Arbor my WHOLE life (by parnets who lived here their whole college life)....if you are anti-HASH BASH you are NOT a true Ann Arborite PERIOD. This event really sets the theme for people that have shaped the face of Ann Arbor, liberal, free spirited, open-minded, open-cultured, green (earth friendly), and creative. All of these things weed can help one open up to. For those of you that say weed is the devil, crawl back into your bad 1970's anti-weed commerical. 70% of America smokes, anyone who thinks differently is a holy roller, drunk, or hard core druggie-pick your domain.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 10:40 p.m.

Why is this article filed under "Crime"?

Basic Bob

Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 9:58 a.m.

Many things alter our perspective as much as pot. How about a double espresso, a chocolate Easter bunny, or a good cigar? Or the laughing gas at the dentist's office. Or a strenuous workout. How about a roller coaster ride? Some get a buzz from a standard adult dose of Sudafed. No one intends to make all these substances illegal. The government could save a lot of money by decriminalizing marijuana, in law enforcement, prosecution, and corrections. The net effect on society would be unnoticeable.

David Briegel

Fri, Apr 2, 2010 : 10:33 p.m.

There are still thousands of families and lives being destroyed by the insane, ineffective, wasteful, senseless, costly and futile "war on drugs/sanity". Quite simply one of the most foolish mistakes in our nations history. Legalize and tax it if you must. Free the selectively prosecuted and punished saving huge sums in our prison system while making room for real criminals like the Wall Street criminal banking class! If you believe pot causes brain damage how do you explain the brain damage of the foolish majority that supports the wasteful status quo referenced above? Those are the reasons I will be there with a few others showing my support for sanity.


Fri, Apr 2, 2010 : 1:20 p.m.

News say rain for tomorrow. :(


Fri, Apr 2, 2010 : 10:24 a.m.

Thanks treetowncartel. I know the history. The HB started in celebration of A2's decriminalization as a city ordinance and directed the AAPD to not enforce the state law. Do so before the ordinance took place would have been stupid...I won't go there....In fact, local Michigan Representative Perry Bullard attended and there is a photo somewhere in the AA News archives of him puffing on a doobie.


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 10:33 p.m.

"As such, Brown said, attendees of the Monroe Street Fair would be wise to avoid illegal activity on the north sidewalk near the Law Quad, which is University property." The sidewalk is city property. The land past it is UM property.


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 7 p.m.

Those use too be the days! Back in the 70's in good Pioneer High School when you could leave on April Fools Day (skip) and go join in on a real hash bash. You could really meet some down too earth people. You did not have to smoke but the time really sticks too the mind of all the fun. Also you did not pick any paper and read about the crap that goes on now. Thank You new generation for messing up the good old days!!!


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 4:20 p.m.

" I wanted to remember and feel all of the emotions involved, not dull the senses." And dare I say that, this one is for you hash bashers out there, I wouldn't say hullicinagans "dull" your senses. Some would in fact say you might actually be missing out on some senses not taking them. Not that I think anyone should.


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 4:15 p.m.

"And how is it pot smoke is not harmful but tobacco smoke is? The Carcinogens are no different..." I'm not a big pot champion or a hippee for the cause, so let me just say that now. To this point though I would say the way cigarettes are processed and chemically altered for desired results, add greatly to the carcinogens in them. Therefore perhpas there are no carcinogen difference in "raw" reefer & tabacoo, but a pack of smokes from the store I would think has mnay many more. That's just my opinions on what i know of this issue. As for one hit or drink altering your perception I would never disagree with that, I'm just saying i don't agree with your statement that it would hamper you from feeling emotions or remembering a fun time.

Atticus F.

Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 4:09 p.m.

DJM, please speak for your self. people have been useing mind altering substances for thousands of years before you were born. If you dont like marijuana or alcohol, the solution is really simple, dont use them.


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

@loka....yes, even one drink or one hit can alter one's perspective. I say make all mind altering additives illegal. And how is it pot smoke is not harmful but tobacco smoke is? The Carcinogens are no different...


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 1:52 p.m.

I hope it rains on the day and Ann Arbor declares open fires subject to a $500.00 fine. Hashers, go get a real life.


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 1:47 p.m.

California is already working on legislation making pot a controlled substance and taxing the stuffing out of it. If Michigan were to follow suit now, our money woes would be over! Jennifer! I don't even smoke, but as a citizen I can spot a good thing when I see it! Think of all the monies for K-12 education?


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 1:22 p.m.

"Any time I've had an enjoyable time, I wanted to remember and feel all of the emotions involved," *sigh* So people smoke a joint or have a drink and it completely erases their memory?


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 1:17 p.m.

I find it somewhat sad that people need to alter their consciousness. Any time I've had an enjoyable time, I wanted to remember and feel all of the emotions involved, not dull the senses. And to Tom wasn't nicotine that killed all of those people, it was lung cancer exasberated by smoke I guess Pot is harmless as long as everyone pulls a Bill Clinton and doesn't inhale?


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 1:16 p.m.

Actually Mick, the Hash Bash started back in 1972, long before the U of M had a police department or they were enforcing the state fine on u of m property. A rally about the arrest of john Sinclair in ypsi for 2 marijuana cigarettes turned out to be a regular thing, and that is how it all started. It was always at Noon on April 1, and not the 1st Saturday in april. That started sometime in the late 80's, when High Times and other people made it a more commercial venture.I must admit, the sparse crowds of the early 80's grew quite a bit by moving it to Saturdays. I'll never forget my 1st taste of the hash bash, I was in elementary school and my mom was driving me down to Dascola Barbers on Liberty street for a haircu.t The traffic was pretty heavy that Saturday April 1st. When we got up to State Street at University after a few minutes of waiting I her heard use an expletive, one of only like the five times in my life, followed by "its hash bash today". To top it all off, once we got the car parked and got to the barbershop, my barber had stepped out for a bit. I know now that he had popped over to "check things out". I managed to find my way down there at noon in junior and senior high, and the latter was a little easier since right around that time they switched it to the 1st Saturday.It was much better than seeing Walter Mondale on the diag. Finally, the $5 fine in Ann Arbor changed to $25 right about the same time the state fines were being enforced more dilligently on U of m property.


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 12:48 p.m.

"They would have moved the HB off campus, Gallup park, West Park, or Vets park." I remember one year they kind of had a hike down to Gallup after the speakers to skirt the state issue, but as you can imagine that is quite a hike and kind of silly. Good idea to move it to West Park (maybe next year when it's open), you have a huge park & the band shell for speakers. Of course if they ended up building a park everyone wants on top of the library lot site (which I'm against), the first even there should be the hash bash. Centrally located so businesses can profit. Right across form the bus station, next to those hippee's perfect. Stay off the Federal property though...they'll probably shoot you or something.


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 12:29 p.m.

Is maryjane unhealty? Yes, it causes brain damage. Proof: the sponsors of the HB create a big whoopie and draw in thousands for a smokefest without telling people that the reason it started, the A2 decriminalization ordinance, was no longer valid on the Diag after the UMPD was established. State law took effect, as noted above by Lokalisierung. So many were arrested under state law. I arrested 12 myself during one HB. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Thus if the organizers had any brains left, they would have moved the HB off campus, Gallup park, West Park, or Vets park. I imagine people could openly smoke, since I doubt the AAPD would bother writing cite after cite for only for what is it, $35 now? The effort would cost more than the fines would bring in so I suppose people could smoke to their dead brain's content. Free parking too. For many years, and still today, many people go thinking they can smoke openly. Not as much as it used to be, the word has gotten out. But I still wonder why they don't move it into the city and smoke away. Thus MJ causes brain death.


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 11:28 a.m.

Wow, what a brillian move on the Girl Scouts' part!


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.

"There was no time limit - we went all day. Now you come and listen to speakers for an hour." Got to move it off the Diag. That State law crap killed it.


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

Yes, it's still a crime to possess and smoke marijuana, but the state legislature is considering repealing the motorcycle helmet law. Go figure.


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

Last year my husband and I had forgotten about Hash Bash, but found ourselves walking around the S.University area about 1/2 way through the, er, festivities when we spied an amusing tableux: On one side of S. University, a large table had been set up and 6-7 Girlscouts were selling cookies. Across the street were around 50 people with "legalize pot" signs and banners...I commented that the 'Scouts were bound to sell all their cookies in record time considering the foot traffic. :O)


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 9:54 a.m.

Hash bash, a.k.a amateur day


Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 9:45 a.m.

I agree Tom, this is just silly to be debating anymore. I don't smoke it although I did a few times in my youth. It's definitely not as harmful as alcohol. The worst effect is the laziness that ensues in "potheads". So what? Either Marijuana and alcohol should legal, or both should be illegal. Now especially when we don't have enough tax revenue to support our schools, it seems to me that we're leaving a lot of money on the table. LEGALIZE POT and TAX IT!

Blue Marker

Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 6:46 a.m.

I have an idea, legalize it and never have a Hash Bash again. It's time to end the hypocrisy. I love it when law makers and lobbyist from the Anheuser Busch and Pfizer get together to discuss the evils of pot.

Tom Degan

Thu, Apr 1, 2010 : 5:55 a.m.

Nearly three-quarters-of-a-century after it was made illegal; half-a-century after it was proven to be practically harmless - why is it still a crime to possess and smoke marijuana? Here is a list of ten famous people who died as a result of nicotine abuse: Humphrey Bogart Edward R. Murrow Nat King Cole George Harrison John Huston Noel Coward Betty Grable Walt Disney Gary Cooper Peter Jennings Here is another list. Ten famous people who died from alcoholism: Billie Holiday Jack Kerouac Truman Capote Lorenz Hart Veronica Lake Bix Beiderbecke Montgomery Clift Dylan Thomas John Barrymore Errol Flynn Now I'm going to ask you to name for me one celebrity who has died from too much grass. Go on, I'm waiting.... Couldn't do it, could you? Don't feel bad. Neither could I. Not only am I not aware of anyone ever dying in that manner, I am not aware of it happening in all recorded human history. If someone can come up with one example I'll shut up forever on the subject. Is it a "gateway drug" as they never tire of reminding us? An argument may be made that it is. But so is Pabst Blue Ribbon. Also, ciggies and booze have absolutely no medicinal value. Marijuana has. Think about it. Do I advocate its use? I don't. I haven't smoked pot in over twenty years and have no intention to take up the habit again any time soon. But at the dawn of the second decade of the twenty-first century the question is screaming to be asked: Why are we still having this stupid conversation? Tom Degan Goshen, NY