ANN ARBOR, MI – Hundreds of protesters, pot tourists and marijuana enthusiasts were at the University of Michigan Diag Saturday afternoon for a smoke-in protest in conjunction with the 50th Hash Bash rally.
The annual smoke-in was a protest of marijuana laws, including the prohibition against smoking in public, according to Adam Brook, a past organizer of Hash Bash. Current organizers are holding the event virtually for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Related: Ann Arbor’s 50th Hash Bash will be virtual, but smoke-in protest planned
Brook previously said he wouldn’t sit out another year and planned the smoke-in protest at the Diag. A large crowd in the hundreds, if not the thousands were on the Diag, and many others were walking between the Diag and downtown Ann Arbor dispensaries.
“This just shows that we still have a lot to fight for,” Brook said. “We moved the ball forward, but we still have a long way to go.”
The first Hash Bash took place on the Diag in 1972 — four months after John Lennon and others came to town to attend a freedom rally for imprisoned Ann Arbor poet and pot activist John Sinclair, who was serving a 10-year sentence for possessing two joints.
After Sinclair was freed and Michigan’s felony marijuana law declared unconstitutional, the first Hash Bash was held as a new state law with lesser penalties took effect.
Sinclair was in attendance for the protest Saturday, April 3. He said he was glad to see everyone come out.
“We’re not supposed to be here. They don’t want anybody smoking weed on the campus – never have, never will,” Sinclair said.
Openly smoking marijuana in public is not legal and is even less appropriate during a pandemic, Ann Arbor Police Chief Michael Cox said Friday. Both AAPD and UM’s Division of Public Safety and Security (UMDPSS) were at the Diag Saturday to monitor the protest and crowd. Officers were telling those in attendance that they could not sell anything on the UM Diag.
Paul Kerry wasn’t selling anything, but he was offering people hits from a device he created to making dabbing – inhaling vaporized cannabis concentrates through a heating method like a vaporizer – more efficient and last longer.
It was Kerry’s first Hash Bash, and while he has known about the event for years, he never thought about going until this year.
“Now that I’m here, this is awesome,” said Kerry, of Port Huron. “I’m around a group of my kind of people.”
The state has COVID-19 orders in place through April 19 limiting non-residential outdoor gatherings to no more than 300 people, with face masks to be worn at all times unless eating or drinking while seated in a designated area in groups of no more than six people, spaced at least six feet apart, and no intermingling.
Related: Ann Arbor police chief has message for Hash Bash visitors: ‘We’re in the middle of a pandemic’
UM DPSS Public Information Officer Melissa Overton said there were between 500 and 700 people at most on the Diag, but everything was peaceful, and no arrests were made as of 1:30 p.m.
The last in-person Hash Bash in April 2019 — the first with marijuana legalized in Michigan — drew a record crowd of well over 10,000 people from around the state and beyond.
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