Celebrating its 50th year, Ann Arbor's Hash Bash goes digital (again)

click to enlarge Celebrating its 50th year, Ann Arbor's Hash Bash goes digital (again)
Katherine Raymond

The Hash Bash — Ann Arbor's annual celebration of all things weed — is once again canceled in physical form, but that's not stopping organizers from arranging what's shaping up to be a big 50th anniversary event.

Like last year, this year's Hash Bash will go digital, in the form of a free "variety-show-style production" livestream, according to a press release. A star-studded lineup includes former Fox 2 News anchor-turned-cannabis entrepreneur Anqunette "Q" Sarfoh as M.C., along with speakers including Attorney General Dana Nessel, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, state Senator Jeff Irwin, former Detroit Lion Calvin Johnson, and former Detroit Red Wing Darren McCarty.

Other guests include John Sinclair, guitarist Laith Al-Saadi (who typically performs the National Anthem Jimi Hendrix-style), musician Tom Wall, and drag queen Laganja Estranja. There will also be plenty of speakers from activists from members of drug policy organizations.

Like last year, this year's event is going digital because of the ongoing pandemic. The organizers say it was especially important not to hold the event — traditionally held at the University of Michigan's Diag, where at past events people openly shared joints while law enforcement turned a blind eye — because of the the highly contagious coronavirus mutation that has been detected in cases linked to the campus.

"In the interest of public safety, we felt it was our duty to continue, full-steam ahead, with a digital production that can accommodate the needs of the community and continue to educate, activate, protest, and entertain in true keeping with the traditional event," organizer Nick Zettell says in a statement. "We cannot wait until next year when we can all gather together on the Diag to continue this wonderful tradition safely and confidently."

Founded in 1972, the Hash Bash was originally a celebration in response to the March 9 1972 decision by the Michigan Supreme Court declaring the law used to convict activist John Sinclair for possession of two marijuana joints as unconstitutional.

In the years since, the Hash Bash has organized around cannabis legalization efforts, but with cannabis legalization fully approved by Michigan voters in 2018, organizers are now focusing their efforts on getting the federal government to legalize weed.

Both the Democratic-controlled U.S. House and Senate have made major moves on federal marijuana legalization. In December, the House passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, the first cannabis legalization bill to ever make it to the floor of Congress. Democratic Senate leaders have also indicated that they intend to soon file legislation. President Joe Biden has also indicated support for decriminalizing pot.

"Hash Bash is committed to the advocacy of federal cannabis legalization and to giving cannabis users and patients a voice," Sarfoh says in a statement. "We are excited to carry on this tradition with a new and innovative format that our attendees can feel safe attending. For decades we have given cannabis users a voice and an incredible afternoon of entertainment."

As usual, this year's event is slated to start at noon on Saturday, April 3.

This year's event will also help raise funds for the John Sinclair Foundation and the Michigan Cannabis Prisoner Freedom Fund.

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland "Lee" DeVito grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, where he read Metro Times religiously due to teenaged-induced boredom. He became a contributing writer for Metro Times in 2009, and Editor in Chief in 2016. In addition to writing, he also supplies occasional illustrations. His writing has been published...
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