There will be a political charge amid the haze at the University of Michigan Diag Saturday, as thousands flock to Ann Arbor for the city's 41st annual Hash Bash.
Hash Bash started in 1972 to celebrate the freedom of activist and cannabis advocate John Sinclair, who had been serving a 10-year prison sentence for a bust involving two marijuana joints. Now, the state's battles over Michigan's Medical Marihuana Act and a push for full legalization have organizers harkening back to politics of the pro-weed event's early days.
This year's event will feature Steve DeAngelo, director of the nation's largest medical marijuana dispensary and long-time cannabis advocate. He'll speak alongside activists involved with marijuana initiatives in Detroit, Flint Kalamazoo and other Michigan cities.
Activists Charmie Gholson, founder Michigan Moms United to End the War on Drugs and editor of the American Cultivator, and Chuck Ream, president of the Arborside marijuana dispensary in Ann Arbor, will emcee Hash Bash. They got some help organizing the event from the U-M group Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
"The Hash Bash is about two things: the celebration of the greatness of cannabis and a protest of the bestial anti-American treatment of people by the government," said Ream, who also works with the Safer Michigan Coalition, a group organizing citizen initiatives to decriminalize or lower police priorities for marijuana enforcement in five Michigan cities.
Ream expects this year's Hash Bash to be the biggest yet -- with a crowd of up to 10,000 people -- thanks to the large base of medical marijuana patients in Michigan, and pushback to current efforts by state Attorney General Bill Schuette to restrict the scope of the Medical Marihiuana Act.
"When people vote 63 percent in favor of a medicine, then that medicine should be available to those people who need it," Ream said. "Democracy itself is at risk."
Matt Abel, executive director of the Michigan chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (MINORML) and the campaign director of Committee for a Safer Michigan, will also be present to speak about a state initiative to fully legalize marijuana in Michigan.
Saturday night, Ann Arbor's Blind Pig is offering a series of late night Hash Bash performances, including some words from the man who helped inspire the event, poet John Sinclair.