"Hemp - Hemp - Hooray! "
Unknown Hash Bash protester 2013
Ahh, Ann arbor. The college town of all college towns. This Michigan mid-sized city is home to the University of Michigan, one of Americas finer college. Besides the usual traditional college curriculum, more unconventional courses are offered, such as - Zombie Survival and How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation. But I didn't travel 50 miles from my home on the east side of Detroit just to expand my intellect in higher education (wow, all of these pun words - "expand" "intellect" "HIGHER". You can see where this is going folks.) no, I came here on this typical gray spring day that you often find here in Michigan to observe and hopefully decipher one of Ann Arbors finest attractions - The Ann Arbor Hash Bash.
This annual event has been attracting stoners (like a newly found hidden smoking spot) since 1972. At first, it was intended to be a celebratory gathering which brought public awareness to the Michigan Supreme Court decision on March 9th 1972, declaring the law used to imprison activist John Sinclair on marijuana possession charges, unconstitutional. Since then, it has grown into a protest march against federal and state marijuana laws with the intent to completely eradicate the pot prohibition. This yearly event is held on every first Saturday of April on the steps of the University of Michigan's Diag (// DY-ag) which is a large open space in the middle of the university's central campus. The main event is at "high noon" with various key note speakers rallying a crowd of thousands. This event has grown year by year in attendants and so has the thick cloud of pot smoke hovering above them.
So as I hurtled down the highway on my way to this event, the first bump in the road hit me like Fat Dab - Detroit construction. "It's only April" I said. "Construction season isn't supposed of started yet". As conscientious Detroit drivers knows, Michigan has two seasons: Winter and road construction season. Crawling my way through this tragic traffic, constantly shifting gears from first too second on my well warn 1999 VW Jetta, I started to wonder, because when ever I'm in a Detroit traffic jam; to keep my cool I often ponder on cosmic issues. "Does the Hash Bash still have that revolutionary spirit that was so prevalent during the 1960's and 70's, even in this modern internet based society we call America or is it just a good excuse for twenty-somethings to go to get high?". I mean a question like this real helps to releave a lot of stress from the out-numbered offensively driven trucks that infest I-94
Finaly after an hour drive, I arrived in Ann Arbor. Exploring the city trying to find a good parking spot is more akin to finding the mythical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It was impossible! Almost all parking spots were ether metered or permit parking only and I wasn't about to wast my time running back and forth feeding a hungry meter like a stoner after a hard days smoke-a-thon. Thirty minutes of searching and almost ready to give up, I finally found a free parking spot. A mere three blocks away from the Diag, it was one of those miracle parking spots you only hear about in urban legend stories. Quickly reserving my free parking I headed out to the Diag. Having a half an hour before the festivities, it gave me ample time to relish in the atmosphere. Oh, I'm not saying where I found that free "legal" parking spot.
Grabbing a cup of tea in the coffee house across the street from the U of M campus, I headed up the long straight walkway to the center campus Diag. It was cloudy and cold with an occasional lite northerly breeze that made it feel more like winter at the steps of Diag. Good thing I was smart enough to bring along a nice hot cup of tea. Even with the cold Michigan weather at hand, it certainly didn't keep the stoners away as we'll find out later on. Even at 11:30 am, there was already copious amounts of people, standing around, smoking, sometimes occasionally dancing to rhythmic beat of various drum circles that were sporadically stationed throughout the Diag.
Roaming around the crowd, I started to familiarize myself with the vast collection of different people who were in attendance. Trying to piece together what type of person would come to an event like this and why. My mind was blown away to see so many different generations, races, creeds and political view points being represented here. Hippies - Yea, they were there, dreads and all. College jocks - Dude, Bro. They were there in force. Freaks - Eh, few and far between but if you glanced over the top of the crowd, you will notice the unmistakeable site of a mohawk jetting out like a soar thumb ( like a undercover cop car). Straight edged clean cut students - Again, just think undercover cop car. Speaking of police."Two". What does two have to do with Ann Arbor's finest? Well the whole time I was there, I only counted a total of two police officers and they were standing well away from the crowd, almost to the point where you had to question yourself as to what's the point of the police having a presents there at all. Maybe they were afraid of getting a contact buzz ?
By 12:00 am "high noon" the crowd grew at an overwhelming rate. With twenty-somethings flocking in large groups down the side walks towards the Diag, you get a sense that this is going to get interesting. The Hash Bash got under way in what I thought was quite unusual. You would think that the customary way of starting such an event would be to light up a ceremonial joint. Not here! This is Ann Arbor, we still respect our constitutional rights. Everyone in the audience put down their joints or what ever they were smoking, faced the American flag perched up high on the flag pole in the middle of the Diag, as a young lady sang The National Anthem. As it ended, cheers rang out from the crowd, and the mass conflagrantion of organic material continued.
With vairous key note speakers gathered above the crowd on the steps, their rallying voices blaring through P.A. system, passing the microphone around so each one get his or her chance to voice their concerns on subjects such as - cannabis economics - marijuana prohibition repeal - hemp industry - and more. Notable speakers that really set the crowds joints on fire was: Michigan State Rep. Jeff Irwin, who spoke about completely legalizing marijuana.
During these rallying speeches, other activities of an illicit nature was taking place. The whole Diag was up in smoke. A constant barrage of white puffs of smoke flew away, carried by the wind. This interesting aroma saturated the crowd. A mixer of different strains of pot, marijuana, dope, bud, call it what you will , it was like being in the epicenter of a hurricane. The confusion of all these different smells overloading your sense of smell. Everywhere you looked, there was someone smoking a joint, a bowl, I even caught a glimpse of a young gorgeous blond girl smoking out of a huge glass bong. They don't care, they'll do it out in the open, "This is the Hash Bash - smoking's legal", one protester suggested to me as he took a big hit off of a massive blunt. And all the while those two Ann Arbor police officers I told you about earlier; they were still there, away from the crow. Just observing I would imagine.
After a while of being subjected to ounce after ounce of second hand smoke from the audience, I started to fell different. Almost euphoric. Spending that much time in the middle of Michigan's largest smoke-out, definitely has some side effects. All of the sudden in stead of my attention being focused on the speakers, it was now in hyper A.D.D. mode. I tell you that girl standing ontop of that wall has the most sexiest socks I've ever seen.......Sorry, back to the story at hand. Yea, A.D.D. and I think the hole crowd was feeling the same way. But in the mist of all this smoke, were people who were genuinely interested in what the speakers had to say. One of them was a middle aged man who's there every year holding a novelty American flag with the stars substituted as pot leafs or the hippie who's photogenic oversize bowl rises eyebrows and let us not forget the young man of the street and his cardboard sign signifying free handouts. But most importantly what I found out as the effects of the pot smoke wore off, as I stood there looking around in the middle of a smoke infused crowd, a small group of people in front of me broke apart to revile what was once hidden by them. Like Moses and the parting of the sea. An answer that was well hidden the whole time I was there. Like uncovering of a great mystery, there it was, the answer I've been looking for - a lone medical marijuana patient in a wheelchair. Looking decrepit, maybe hurting but with a big smile on his face and as he exhales a big puff of smoke I realize who and why they come to the Ann Arbor Hash Bash.