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Posted on Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

Ann Arbor Hash Bash 2012: Police warn pot smoking on campus won't be tolerated

By Ryan J. Stanton


This was the scene at Hash Bash 2011 where several people were arrested for possession or use of marijuana. University of Michigan police say they won't look the other way on marijuana use on campus.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Hash Bash takes place Saturday in Ann Arbor and inevitably that means the University of Michigan campus and surrounding areas will be swarming with tokers and smokers.

But before anyone decides to light up, U-M campus police offer a simple warning: Hash Bash is not a special day when officers will look the other way on marijuana use.

Just as in years past, police will be hawking the crowd.

"The illegal activity the event does tend to draw is not welcome," said Diane Brown, a spokeswoman for the U-M Department of Public Safety.


Emily Basham of Students for Sensible Drug Policy rallies a crowd of several thousand people on the U-M Diag at last year's Hash Bash.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Brown said police will be present at Hash Bash, which starts with a political rally at high noon on the U-M Diag and then spills over into the Monroe Street Fair.

"Particularly people coming from out of town think that it is a one-day amnesty for marijuana and that is not true," Brown said. "People need to be law abiding if they are on the University of Michigan campus, and everything should go smoothly if they are."

Brown said some people have actually gone up to campus police officers in years past to ask: "Where's the marijuana tent where I can go smoke?"

Of course, there isn't one. It's smoke at your own risk, and the risks are greater on university property versus anywhere else in Ann Arbor, a town known for its tolerance toward cannabis.

The Ann Arbor City Council in the 1970s reduced the city penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a $5 civil infraction, essentially decriminalizing weed in Ann Arbor. That remains the case today, except it's now a $25 ticket for first offenses.

But while the city's lax penalties for possession of marijuana apply in most areas of the city, campus police enforce state law on university property, and state law says marijuana possession is a misdemeanor crime punishable by one year in jail and up to $2,000 in fines.

Brown said campus police arrested 20 people for marijuana possession at Hash Bash in the past two years, and another two people were arrested for use of marijuana.

Another person was cited for open intox on the Diag at last year's Hash Bash and one person was arrested for possession of heroin and ecstasy at the festival two years ago.

So, ironically, Hash Bash is perhaps the worst time of year in Ann Arbor to light up in broad daylight and expect to get away with it — at least on university property.

Chuck Ream, a local marijuana advocate and one of the organizer's of this year's event, agreed university property isn't the best place to hold Hash Bash.


A man takes a puff during last year's Hash Bash rally on the Diag.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Ream said he'd love to hold Hash Bash off campus at a place like Ann Arbor's Gallup Park, located along the Huron River, where there'd be more room to bring in bands.

But he said tradition trumps all else when it comes to Hash Bash.

The Hash Bash rally on the Diag began in 1972 after local activist John Sinclair was sentenced to 10 years on prison for selling two joints to an undercover narcotics agent. The Michigan Supreme Court declared the law used to convict Sinclair unconstitutional and since then the annual gathering has focused on the goal of reforming marijuana laws.

Ream said the U-M campus also has a higher significance.

"That's the place Johnson announced the Great Society," he said. "That's the place Kennedy announced Peace Corps. It's politically of great significance."

Hash Bash is able to be held on the Diag because a student group — University of Michigan Students for Sensible Drug Policy — is the holder of the permit.

U-M junior Nick Zettell, the group's president, plans to announce at the start of Saturday's rally that it's not smart to light up on university property.

"I would tell them to refrain from smoking during the actual rally," he said. "There will be plenty of time to do that during the Monroe Street Fair."

Ream, a former kindergarten teacher, agreed.

"Basically it's dumb to smoke on university property," he said. "And if you smoke anywhere else, you should be careful. It's not open season for smoking here."

A spokesperson for the Ann Arbor Police Department could not be reached for comment.

Brown declined to comment on how many U-M police officers will be out on Saturday, but she said they're expecting a larger crowd than in years past given the warmer weather and the heavily politicized debate over marijuana in the state of Michigan.

For the first time in 41 years of Hash Bash, activists are collecting signatures to amend Michigan's Constitution and repeal marijuana prohibition for adults 21 and older.

Brown stressed that the university embraces freedom of speech and is happy to allow the political aspects of Hash Bash — just not marijuana use.


A man lights up in the street at the Monroe Street Fair following the Hash Bash rally on the Diag last year.

Ryan J. Stanton |

And that's what makes the Monroe Street Fair tricky. If anyone is thinking that's safe territory to smoke after the rally, it's not that simple.

On the north side of Monroe Street near the U-M law quad — that's still university property. On the south side near Dominick's — that's not university property. But go a little farther west and hit the first block next to State Street — that's university property again.

Zettell said he thinks campus police are mainly interested in making sure the Diag doesn't turn into a "giant smoke session," but he still recommends avoiding smoking on any campus property. He said smoking in the street at the fair should be fine.

Charlie Strackbein, who founded the Monroe Street Fair in 2002, said he encourages fair-goers to just be smart and enjoy the day. Monroe Street will be shut down for the fair with live bands playing all afternoon from 1 to 6 p.m. on a stage in front of Dominick's.

Bizarre, a former member of the D12 rap group, is expected to perform a comical set that includes songs like "My Mom's A Stoner." Strackbein said another highlight will be when a popular musician from Nashville, Chief Greenbud, takes the stage.

"We'll have entertainment running from beginning to end this year, even between band changeovers," said Strackbein, marketing director for the B.D.T. Pipe & Tobacco Shop headquartered in Hazel Park, one of the festival sponsors.

Acts in between bands will include an impressionist, a comedian, an acoustic guitar set and a speaker from the campaign to legalize marijuana in Michigan.

"People really enjoy the fair," Strackbein said. "They enjoy the music and mix of unique vendors. I think what really draws people is the entrainment. I get a lot of complements on that, and this year we have a new music director and we've put together a heck of a show."

The annual Hash Bash concert at the Blind Pig follows at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door and acts include The Macpodz with John Sinclair, UV Hippo and Chrystian Rawk.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Mike Klobuchar

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

The Smoking of the Herb IS the political aspect that is most important. LIGHT UP STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHT! 13 arrests on 4/7. Lowest ever. I saw 2 very lonely UM security guards. I saw THOUSANDS of People FREELY exercising their God Given right in direct defiance of a monstrously profitable industry that is based on the lie that cannabis is dangerous. PEACE c ya'll next year when Cannabis is Legal and our Farmers are growing hemp for industry AGAIN.


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 4:19 a.m.

What's wrong with the police? Don't they understand the whole purpose of the hash bash is to smoke pot? :)

paul wiener

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

Maybe the hypocrisy behind this story is what's behind the U 0f M being high in the "most buzzed about campus" polls. It's importance is right up there with the price of sausages and latest footwear. The role of the UM, the police, the state and the town in this harmless, healthy, happy event is an embarrassment to all, especially in light of what the rest of the country thinks of as "Ann Arbor," which is beginning to seem about as progressive and green as canned tomato paste.

Ron Granger

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

In a show of symbolism: People should burn lots of smokey incense on the diag. And "smoke" lots of hand-rolled cigarettes that do not contain illegal or prohibited substances.

Mike Klobuchar

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

actually been done is years past. It is why there is now a law against 'fake drug transactions"


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 1:40 a.m.



Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

Just another weekend when out of towners come in and trash the place we call home. Just like the art fair , football games etc. I will be glad when they are gone home.

Jim H

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

The place we call home is such a great place because of these events and the diverse people they attract, that bring money to spend.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

Lock your self in your house & watch reruns of American Idol or Dancing With The Stars until the danger passes.

Greg Beglen

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Just Great! Bringing the family over to visit my son for Easter weekend. Hope the purple haze has cleared by the time I get there, and the stoners are passed out!

Mike Klobuchar

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

hope your silly "religious" holiday is taken back by the Pagans your forebearers killed..p.s. If you get cancer it will be cannabis that can most likely cure you.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

The Horror, The Horror. You mean your family might be exposed to the REAL world! You could wrap the flag over their eyes to protect him, like a lot of Americans do.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

Writing from Mexico where America's drug laws America's gun laws have combined to kill 50,000+ Mexicans in the past 6 years. Time to reevaluate US policy for our own sake and the sake of our neighbors.

G. Orwell

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

The real reason for the carnage is because of the "fake war on drugs" or keeping it illegal AND the fed's "Fast and Furious." Where the Bush and Obama administrations shipped thousands of guns to Mexican drug cartels. Iran Contra all over again.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

I wouldn't say it was the laws themselves that killed those people, as much as it was the drug cartels. and their private armies.

Stuart Brown

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 6:41 a.m.

Spike Robertson, The drug laws are working exactly as intended--they give the state an excuse to intrude into the lives of the citizenry. It is about power and control and has nothing to do with policy that serves the interests of the broad population. Remember Oliver North and Iran Contra? The National Security Apparatus uses the international drug trade as a tool of foreign policy. The CIA used known drug smugglers to raise funds for the Contra Army in Nicaragua in the 1980's. John Deutsch, when he was head of the CIA, actually went to LA, chaired a town hall meeting and told the people of LA that the CIA had no knowledge of the links the contractors they had hired had with "Freeway Rick".


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 5:21 a.m.

Let's get over this hype of police being heroes by definition. Particularly in relation to small police forces in small towns, absent suicides and car crashes, police work is a lot safer than working the night shift at the mini-mart. U of M police may be fine people as a group, but high-risk police work is done by a specialized few in places much more dangerous than the U of M campus. Someone commented that they should go back to nabbing speeders, and while I think the comment was made in jest, I'd like to remind everyone that many Ann Arbor speed limits are deliberately underposted and in violation of Michigan state law. Plymouth Road, anyone? There's been court cases over this and Ann Arbor always dismisses the charges rather than have their laws overturned. In regard to the Hash Bash itself, and speaking as a man who has been drug and alcohol tested for decades, I can think of nothing more counterproductive than our current prohibition-style War On Drugs. We created the Mafia with prohibition in the 1920's and we are doing the same thing with drug gangs now. Freedom means very little when the government and your employer gets to tell you what you can put in your own body. There is an alternative approach in Amsterdam and it works well; I suggest a trip there for anyone interested in what change to our archaic drug laws might look like.

Michigan Man

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 6:11 p.m.

Spike - Take off to Amsterdam! No one will miss you! Happy trails.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

Bravo! The work Hero is WAY over used

shadow wilson

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

spike you need a hobby.....


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

Well said!

Jeremy Lazare

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 5:11 a.m.

Can those of us that are younger than 21/18 still sign the petition to repeal the prohibition?


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

Jeremy, a signature on a petition like this is only valid if you're a registered voter. Signing it without being 18 or registered only causes headaches for the people who turn in the petitions. Kudos on your activist spirit though! :)


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 4:08 a.m.

Lets all thank the law enforcement for the laws. They are the true heros

just a voice

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

why on earth would we thank law enforcement for the laws? laws are made by the legislative branch, law enforcement simply enforces the laws that other make.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

Let's not.

Kitty O'Brien

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 3:56 a.m.

I saw people get arrested 2 decade ago. Nothing new. $5 was fine :)

Usual Suspect

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 3:29 a.m.

"Ream said he'd love to hold Hash Bash off campus at a place like Ann Arbor's Gallup Park" No thanks. How about giving Greenland a try? Actually, anywhere but Ann Arbor would be fine with me.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 1:44 a.m.

UM is now a smoke free campus since July 1. Seems like that would put the kibosh on Hash Bash.

Mike Klobuchar

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

smoking cannabis on campus or anywhere is protected political up on Civil Disobedience.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

Isn't this the first year where even tobacco can't be smoked on University property? This kind of gives away the smoke screen defense to obscure pot smokers. Any puff of smoke seen by officers now will be just cause to approach and investigate, regardless of whether it's tobacco or pot. Should make their job easier.

Mike Klobuchar

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

and yet the fewest arrests since the late 70's....hmm your prediction powers are waning...


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Gotcha. I haven't been on campus much lately, so I didn't know how that no smoking rule was panning out. No surprise I guess that it isn't strongly enforced. Either way, this comes up every single year. Don't smoke on campus property, if you do and end up among the few who get caught, you can get in a lot more trouble than if you step off campus to light up. It's been the common rule for as long as I can remember. Then again I was never much of a pot enthusiast, and lost interest entirely in the stuff many years ago. I suppose if you do smoke much pot, "as long as I can remember" might not extend quite so far, hence the need to remind people of this every single year.

Michael J

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 2:42 a.m.

People still smoke on campus all the time with no problems.

Urban Sombrero

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 12:03 a.m.

Don't the cops have bigger fish to fry? AHEM.....campus rapist, anyone? Let the potheads be. They're not hurting anyone. And, seriously, if anything they're stimulating the economy with their munchies. Ann Arbor Police Dept.....go back to waiting for speeders. We all know that's what you do best. Leave the peaceful stoners alone. They're not hurting anyone.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Yes, the police should stop enforcing every other law on the books until they catch the campus rapist. Without violating everyone' civil rights, of course.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 4:33 a.m.

The ann arbor police are hero's. They are out there everyday protecting you.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 3:50 a.m.

reread the article. enforcement on campus is by University of Michigan DPS not the A2 police dept.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 12:32 a.m.



Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

"That's the place Kennedy announced Peace Corps." It was actually on the steps of the Michigan Union, not the Diag. Not that it matters, just sayin...


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 11:35 p.m.

Ream said the Diag also has a higher significance. "That's the place Johnson announced the Great Society," he said. "That's the place Kennedy announced Peace Corps. It's politically of great significance." Mr Ream... you might want to check your facts -- Not sure where Johnson announced the Great Society, but Kennedy was on the steps of the Union.


Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.



Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

Really, it's okay that Chuck was incorrect about a small piece of history ... It's not like he's a teacher, or a former teacher! Something clouding up his memory?!

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 12:05 a.m.

You're right about Kennedy being on the steps of the union. Chuck acknowledges he misspoke. I changed Diag to U-M campus in that sentence to be more accurate. Thanks.


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

Beat me by that much!


Fri, Apr 6, 2012 : 11:20 p.m.

Actually the campus police don't enforce state law or they would respect medical marijana cards. They don't because they enforce federal law because they are required to file a federal assurance of a "drug free workplace" in order to qualify for federal research grants. This was actually the reason that UM lobbied for its own independent police force in 1990. They could not get the Ann Arbor police to arrest people on campus for marijana possession so they decided they needed police that would do what they were told to do. Hence, the campus police.

just a voice

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

Actually they do enforce state law. Medical cards don't allow you to smoke in public. They do not enforce federal laws over state laws. And it wasn't even UM that wanted their own police as pressure from state government on UM over the hash bash helped as a catalyst for UM to get their own cops.

Basic Bob

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 : 3:22 a.m.

Businesses comply with this requirement without forming their own police forces. Can you honestly tell me that there are no drugs or drug users on campus? Does the campus police ensure that no federal research is done while someone is high?