Marijuana advocates speak to an estimated crowd of 8,000 at 43rd Annual Hash Bash

hash bash 2014 marijuana rally hbtv hemp beach tvThe dozen or so marijuana activists at the 43rd Hash Bash held on the University of Michigan’s Diag Saturday spoke to a crowd of around 8,000 about their higher aims and purposes. They talked about freedom, politics and the police state and rallied for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. There was only one arrest, according to University of Michigan police, despite a crowd more than double last year’s 3,000. The rally was kicked off by 1960s counterculture icon John Sinclair who reminisced about being at the Hash Bash in 1972. The goals now are the same as the goals then, he said.

“It’s all about getting high, playing music, making art and getting your head where the powers that be don’t want (it) to be … up their ass,” he said. Speakers like Iraq War veteran Dakota Serna, of Lansing, also took to the steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library to talk about the benefits of cannabis. Serna joined the Marines straight out of high school in 2003 and in a year was on the front line of a military operation in the Al Abar region of Iraq. He was injured twice by friendly fire, but those wounds weren’t as painful as the mental scars he brought home with him.

“I definitely saw a lot of gruesome things and watched a lot of good friends die,” said the veteran who now sports a bushy beard and bandana. “Reliving that every night just got too much for me. I had to find something.” The antipsychotics and antidepressants they gave him at the veterans hospital for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder made him sick and suicidal. “It got to a point where I needed to try something else,” he said.

Around 2009, a friend handed him a joint. “I felt so much better after and I never looked back,” he said. “I’m living proof. It saved my life. Serna helped score a victory for fellow sufferers of PTSD a month ago when it was added to the list of ailments doctors can prescribe medical marijuana. Serna said he testified in front of the state medical board to advocate for it.

The crowd Serna and others addressed was just as colorful as other Hash Bashes. Marijuana smoke puffed up from the groups of people as they passed joints, despite being warned by organizers they could be ticketed. They carried signs that read, “Free the weed” and “Legalize it.” Ralph Worick, of Kalamazoo, was flying a green and white flag with a marijuana leaf where the stars would be on the American flag. Worick, who said he’s been smoking since he was 11, said it’s his flag for the “United States of Euphoria.”

Worick has been coming to the Hash Bash since 1976. “I have an accounting degree from Western. I have kids, but it’s my life. I have to be honest about it,” he said about his marijuana advocacy. “Free the plant. And free everyone in jail. And get rid of their records.” The crowd was filled with plenty of younger people like Max Madigan, of Farmington Hills, who has come four years in a row now. “I just come to listen to the speakers. It’s a chill event with cool people,” he said. “There’s nothing bad about it.”

Courtney Marks, from Corunna, said this her third time coming out. “It’s a great environment to be in,” she said, adding that what she likes most about the event is “being able to walk around and smoke your cigaweed and being to be around everyone else who enjoys it as well.” Politicians were also on hand to talk about various marijuana legislation. Ann Arbor city councilperson and mayor hopeful Sabra Briere was on hand to talk about how the city has been a leader in reforming marijuana laws.

“What got me engaged in this wasn’t medical marijuana, it’s fairness,” she said. “It’s equity. I want rules that make sense, that are easy to follow and that are fair to everybody.” State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) talked about a bill making it’s way through Lansing that would make all of Michigan like Ann Arbor where anyone with an ounce or less of marijuana would get a $25 ticket. “Make it statewide,” he said. “Make sure we stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year on … arresting and incarcerating marijuana users, and redirect those resources to fixing our schools and fixing our roads and building our economy.”

State Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) has a different bill passed in the House by 95-14 that would establish medical marijuana on the state law books. The bill heads to the Senate where, if it passes, it would need to be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. “I hear the governor is from Ann Arbor. Maybe that will help,” he said.

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