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Hash Bashers Know Where The Line Is 


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Source: Ann Arbor News (MI)
Author: Jo Collins Mathis, News Staff Reporter 
Published: Sunday, April 4, 2004 
Copyright: 2004 The Ann Arbor News
Contact: [email protected]

When Mimi Broz drove up from Ohio for Saturday's 33rd annual Ann Arbor Hash Bash, she came prepared. She brought a drum to beat while shouting, "Pot is an herb! Bush is a dope!" She wore her Hash Bash hat loaded with politically progressive pins.

And she brought a marijuana cigarette hidden inside a pack of Pall Malls. But the joint was not smoked before its time. 

Asked if she was going to light up on the University of Michigan Diag, the 39-year-old activist said: "On campus? No, I'm not an idiot. In the city? Maybe." 

Possession of marijuana is a civil infraction with a $25 fine in the city of Ann Arbor. But because the U-M regents receive their authority from the state, the university's Department of Public Safety enforces state law and university ordinances. Minimum punishment is a $100 fine and/or 90 days in jail. 

Event organizers urged the crowd of about 1,500 to go ahead and smoke a joint as an act of civil disobedience, but to do so later, on city property where participants could probably afford a $25 fine. 

So most people smoked nicotine or nothing during the hour-long Hash Bash in which speakers promoted the medicinal use of marijuana, urged them to join the fight to legalize pot and reminded them that the current administration is no friend of the cause. 

Poet John Sinclair, a former Ann Arbor resident and 1960s activist, reminded the crowd that in the early '70s, he helped elect candidates to the city council who helped change the marijuana law. 

"I'm very proud of having participated in this historic movement," he said, before urging people to "register to vote, get together with your friend, pick your targets, and topple them over." 

"It's a good thing to remember that as a people, we have a lot of power of our own. We have to exercise it." 

The first Hash Bash was held after Sinclair's 1969 arrest and imprisonment for possessing two marijuana joints. In past years, when the city allowed more vendors for the day, the event was larger. But it still brings significant revenue into the city for the day, said Adam Brook, master of ceremonies and a former Ann Arbor resident. 

"This is the most unadvertised underground event that happens anywhere in the country," he said. 

Marc Geordes of Chelsea hasn't smoked pot in more than a decade, but supports the cause and likes to people-watch at the Hash Bash. 

"I went through chemotherapy and had doctors and nurses offering me pot the whole time," he said. "I never took any. I just lost interest. But a lot of people in the medical community support it at least for medicinal use. In my opinion, it's safer than alcohol. I've never known anyone to get belligerent and out-of-control when they're stoned." 

But the Partnership for a Drug-Free America says risks are associated with marijuana use. They include short-term effects, such as problems with memory and learning, trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor coordination, increased heart rate, and anxiety, the organization's Web site says. The site also says marijuana smoke contains the same cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke. 

When the speeches ended Saturday, Broz led the march to Monroe Street, where an afternoon of music, street vendors and smoking awaited. As soon as she touched soil in the city's jurisdiction, she lit up, passing the joint among friends as a long lunch and beer line formed into Dominick's restaurant. 

"In a free society, I should be able to light up as long as I'm not infringing on anyone's rights," said Broz, 39. "Who am I hurting standing here?" 

Two people learned the hard way that possession of marijuana may be a $25 civil infraction in Ann Arbor, but possession of larger amounts may lead to arrest. The Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team (LAWNET), a team headed by the Michigan State Police with members from local police agencies, arrested the two during the Hash Bash for possessing about a half pound of marijuana. 

U-M's DPS arrested six people, including two U-M students, for possession of marijuana and issued eight citations for sales and solicitation and two citations for alcohol on the Diag, said spokeswoman Diane Brown. 

During last year's cold and rainy Hash Bash, when crowds were significantly smaller, six people were arrested or received citations. In the four previous years combined, 192 people were cited or arrested. 

Before the Hash Bash, about 150 people gathered at the Federal Building to protest the Labor Day weekend 2001 deaths of two Michigan marijuana activists killed during a police siege of their Rainbow Farm compound in Vandalia. 

The crowd was urged to stay around until today, when a "Human Chain for Peace" will form at 2 p.m. between Zingerman's Deli on Detroit Street and Jerusalem Garden on Fifth Avenue. A peace party will follow from 2:30 to 5 p.m. in West Park. 

Note: Those attending hold off on lighting up while on U-M campus. 

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