Pubdate: Wed, 6 Apr 2011
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2011 Metro Times, Inc
Author: Larry Gabriel
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Michigan)
Bookmark: (Michigan)


Ann Arbor Fills With Revelers and Speakers, but Who's Blowing Smoke?

There were googobs of people out at the 40th annual Ann Arbor Hash 
Bash on Saturday, the celebration of all things cannabis. One news 
report I saw put the number of revelers at 6,000. I'm not sure how 
that number was calculated, but I say there were googobs of people 
who defied the chilly weather and laws against the public and 
recreational use of marijuana.

"It was the most successful one we've had in the past 10 years," 
organizer and emcee Adam Brook told me after the bash. "There've been 
some years when the weather was bad that we didn't have very many 
people, but when the weather is good we've had up to 12,000 people out there."

When the first Hash Bash was celebrated on U-M's Diag in 1972, the 
vast majority of the crowd in attendance last week wasn't even born 
yet, and the concept of medical marijuana was just a twinkle in the 
eyes of activists. But one thing that connects the first bash with 
this year's is John Sinclair.

Some of you may know Sinclair as the guy who writes this column every 
other week. Back then, he was fresh out of state prison after serving 
two-and-a-half years of a 10-year sentence for selling two joints; 
the Michigan Supreme Court had ruled the state marijuana laws 
unconstitutional. Sinclair and other activists came up with the idea 
of an April 1 event to take advantage of a small gap of time when 
there was no marijuana law on the books in Michigan. The first and 
several subsequent Hash Bashes were pretty much parties. This year's 
Bash was mostly a political rally defending the medical marijuana 
laws, although there was some talk of out-and-out legalization.

Ann Arbor activist Chuck Ream said, "We are going to have major 
threats this year," refering to the radically different ways 
Michigan's medical marijuana law has been interpreted differently by 
activists, on one hand, and law enforcement officials, on the other. 
"Fight back. Dare to kick ass. When we think about patients, we know 
we have no option to fail."

There was a stream of speakers, each apparently allotted about two 
minutes; Brook kept the program moving along. Brook, who's been the 
main Bash organizer the past 20 years, addressed the recent bust at 
his home in Royal Oak. "I want to apologize," he said. "I got busted. 
I was breaking no law and they came after me. The motherfuckers came 
into my house and I wasn't even there."

On Feb. 22, Brook, a registered medical marijuana patient, was 
charged with eight felony counts after a January raid when police 
found a triple-beam scale (a traditional tool of dealers), marijuana 
(allegedly more than a pound, although the amount is in dispute) and 
marijuana candy, two loaded handguns, a loaded shotgun and a 
bulletproof vest, according to a police report. Brook has a former 
felony conviction and is not allowed to be around guns.

"They found my wife's guns," said Brook. "I was charged with seven 
gun crimes. They've dropped four of them already." Regardless of the 
legal cloud hanging over his head ("I expect to beat this," he told 
me), Brook handled his duties well. "We knew this would be big," Brook said.

The political rockstar of the event was New Mexico's former 
Republican Governor Gary Johnson, who said, "We need to legalize 
marijuana in this country. Ninety percent of the problem is 
prohibition-related, not use-related. ... 46 percent of Americans 
support legalization. We're two years away from a national tipping point."

Hmmm, that would be just after the next presidential election. During 
his introduction, Brook said that Johnson was running for president 
in that election. But, after the rally, Johnson played coy on the 
subject. When I asked him if he was really planning on running, he 
said, "Others are saying it." Then he went into some mumbo jumbo 
about fundraising and federal laws that essentially seemed to say 
that he's running but can't legally say that right now. "Sorry to cop 
out," he apologized.

"I've smoked marijuana in my life and drank alcohol," said Johnson. 
"I don't do either today, but I think that marijuana is a lot safer 
than alcohol. It might be a bad choice, but the last thing that it is 
is criminal."

When in front of the crowd, Johnson only talked about marijuana and 
vaguely alluded to other issues. When I pressed him about those other 
issues he started talking about fiscal austerity and bad unions. I 
didn't get too far with that line of questioning. A young woman 
writing for a webzine came up and asked him a question about 
marijuana and walked away after his answer. She seemed taken by the 
fact that she was actually talking to a potential presidential 
candidate. (A bit of advice if she is reading: Work on your follow-up 
questions.) Then a guy with apparent communist tendencies came up and 
started screaming about Johnson's lack of class analysis. (Not a good 
approach if you actually want to be heard.)

However, the general vibe of the pro-marijuana crowd seems to be in 
support of anyone who'll let them smoke in peace. This is something 
that has concerned me about the medical marijuana and legalization 
movement. The political rhetoric has focused on that issue and 
doesn't seem to regard anything else as pertinent. There was 
muttering in the crowd against President Barack Obama because the DEA 
indeed has gone after some medical marijuana dispensaries after 
saying he would leave them alone. I heard one guy say, "I voted for 
him before, but I won't do it again." Be careful. There are those who 
will give you marijuana while nailing your backside to the wall in 
all sorts of other ways. If that's your only concern, well so be it.

In other political content: Marvin Marvin, a longtime local activist, 
announced that he plans to run for U.S. senator in the Democratic 
primary against incumbent Debbie Stabenow; there was discussion of a 
proposed ordinance that would set marijuana as the lowest priority 
for Kalamazoo police, and lots of rhetoric against state Attorney 
General Bill Schuette.

"That SOB is trying to shut our law down," said Tim Beck, who was one 
of the authors of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. Beck also 
announced that the Coalition for a Safer Detroit is making headway 
with its effort to put legalization before Detroit voters. A Wayne 
County Circuit Judge backed the Detroit Election Board on keeping the 
question off the ballot. Beck announced that Safer Detroit's appeal 
has been granted expedited status. "We are going to be on the 
ballot," he predicted.

After all the speeches, the crowd retired to the Monroe Street Fair 
for some serious toking. There had been marijuana smoke wafting in 
the air during the rally, but in some areas at the fair there was air 
wafting on the marijuana smoke. And the crowd was so dense you had to 
elbow your way through to get anywhere. There was rock and reggae, 
and there were street performers, dispensary tours (despite medical 
marijuana activists' avoidance of it, the D-word was liberally tossed 
about throughout the day), compassion club tables, spliffs of many 
shapes and sizes, and even some hash getting burned. About the only 
thing keeping it from being a great festival was the lack of food 
booths. But there were some in the crowd surreptitiously selling a 
variety of marijuana-laced edibles.

As Sinclair declared to the crowd as he took the mic, "Happy Hash 
Bash, everybody."  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake