41 years for Hash Bash at the University of Michigan

There was more politicking than in years past — and seemingly less marijuana smoking — at Saturday’s 41st annual Hash Bash on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. A swarm of marijuana buffs gathered as usual at what they call high noon on U-M’s outdoor Diag plaza to cheer speakers with shouts of “Free the weed!” Some discreetly smoked pot while public safety officers stood a stone’s throw away, making 13 arrests for marijuana possession, according to the U-M Department of Public Safety. What was new were the petitions passed around. Organizers said they hoped to turn giddy stoners into political supporters this spring. If volunteers gather 322,609 signatures by July 8, Michigan voters will see a proposal on the November ballot asking them to legalize marijuana for all uses, not just for the medicinal purposes allowed by the 2008 statewide vote, according to state elections officials. As of Thursday, the campaign had collected 15,000 signatures, and Hash Bash co-emcee Matt Abel said he hoped that an additional 10,000 would arrive from across the state with volunteer circulators who attended Hash Bash. “Sign the petitions, please! And sign up to volunteer!” Abel exhorted the crowd. Abel is a Detroit attorney leading the petition effort. “I just don’t understand why alcohol is legal and marijuana isn’t,” said Chelsie Nicholas, 21, of Saline, moments after signing a petition. Her friends nodded.

“It doesn’t make you violent like alcohol. It just chills you out and makes you feel silly,” Nicholas said. “And expands your mind,” added her friend Deanna Delicato, 21, of Ann Arbor, a student at Washtenaw County Community College. The crowd, estimated at 5,500, was about average for the event, said Diane Brown, U-M public safety department spokeswoman. The event was not endorsed by U-M, but was sponsored by the campus group Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. Through decades of the Hash Bash, campus police have generally arrested only those who committed flagrant drug violations in clear view of officers watching from the perimeter of the Diag. One signer of the petition to legalize pot was Katie Rothenberg, 20, of Birmingham, a nursing student at Oakland University. Marijuana “is completely necessary for women” to relieve anxiety and menstrual symptoms, said Rothenberg, as she passed a joint to friends. The day’s main speaker, Steve DeAngelo of Oakland, Calif., said he was executive director of the world’s largest dispensary for medical marijuana, serving 110,000 users. “We found out, unfortunately, that we can’t count on the Democrats” to support legalization, and “we have to reach out to others,” including Republicans and Libertarians, DeAngelo, 53, told the crowd. The politics of marijuana support have shifted, state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, said in an interview last month. “I do think there’s more and more Libertarians, and folks in the Republican Party and the tea party movement, who are leery of big government” and sympathetic to legalization, McMillin said. “But there’s still a large number of us who oppose it” because marijuana usage can lead to people using harder drugs and can jeopardize the health of children, he said.

via : Detroit Free Press

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