Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jan 2008
Source: Michigan Daily (U of MI, Edu)
Copyright: 2008 The Michigan Daily
Author: Nicole Watkins, Daily Staff Reporter
Photo: Ryan Sample of Ypsilanti demonstrates for the legalization of 
medical marijuana on the Diag during Hash Bash in 2005. This year 
marks Hash Bash's 36th year [File Photo]
Bookmark: (John Sinclair)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


A Poet's Protest

Across the nation, marijuana use and possession is a criminal offense 
with daunting consequences. Outside of the boundaries of Ann Arbor, 
carrying just the slightest amount of the popular drug results in 
expensive fines and possible jail time. But inside the city limits 
marijuana laws are much more lenient.

Although federal law charges $1,000 in fines and up to one year of 
jail time for first offenses, first-time marijuana possession of less 
than two ounces is only a civil infraction - rather than misdemeanor 
or felony - and carries a $25 fine with no jail time or probation in Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor boasts some of the most lax pot laws in the nation, leaving 
some wondering why.

Local historian Wystan Stevens said it all goes back to the legacy of 
John Sinclair in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

John Sinclair, a poet and cultural activist living in Ann Arbor, was 
arrested and imprisoned for attempting to sell two joints to two 
undercover cops in July 1969. Sinclair was sentenced to ten years in 
a state prison.

Sinclair's strict punishment provoked the "Free John Now Rally." On 
Dec. 10, 1971, John Lennon and Yoko Ono led upwards of 15,000 
supporters to rise against Sinclair's sentence at Crisler Arena.

Three days after the uproar, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered 
Sinclair, after just 29 months in jail, to be released under the 
claim that Michigan's marijuana statutes were unconstitutional and void.

Sinclair also sparked a local tradition: Hash Bash.

On April 1, 1972, the "first of the Hash Bashes was held to publicize 
Sinclair's plight," Stevens said. "Later on that year, the Ann Arbor 
City Council overrode the state laws, making marijuana possession a $5 fine."

Hash Bash has been an annual event ever since.

In 1990, the fine was raised to $25 after mayor Gerald Jernigan 
called the initial law "an embarrassment." Second offenses carry a 
$50 fine and third offenses are $100. No marijuana offense in Ann 
Arbor fines more than $100.

Don't go lighting up just yet, though. Because the University is a 
state institution, much stricter state laws apply to on-campus 
offenders. State law classifies marijuana use as a misdemeanor 
punishable with a $100 fine and up to 90 days in jail. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake