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From U-Wire
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 8, 1998

Michigan Hash Bash draws 5,000 for its 27th year

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (U-WIRE) - David Almquist and his wife traveled from Colorado to sell chocolate chip and oatmeal-raisin cookies at the University of Michigan Saturday.

These unique cookies contained only a dash of hemp, but captured the spirit of the 27th annual Hash Bash.

Smoke filled the air as hemp advocates addressed a passionate but peaceful 5,000-person crowd that congregated on the Diag and spilled into the streets of Ann Arbor.

The favorable weather attracted nearly twice as many people as last year's event, with the majority of participants traveling from out of town to attend the rally.

"It's a change of scenery," said sophomore Katrina Silwka. "Even though I live in Ann Arbor, it feels like I'm visiting."

From students to aging '60s activists, participants smoked pot freely, but local police officers made 44 arrests for marijuana possession at this year's event.

"This should happen more often, like 365 times a year," a man said as he inhaled marijuana at a post-rally party. "At least let's smoke on George Washington's birthday."

Another participant dressed in a giant bong he constructed out of a large cardboard tube. His silver-and-white-striped face peered out from the hole in the middle as he stuck grass from the Diag in the pipe and tried to convince others weed was "cool."

"I'm stoned," the man dressed in a bong costume said. "Hash Bash shows people that it's good to smoke."

Police officers surrounding the Diag received jeers from the crowd when they made an arrest, but the law enforcement's presence did little to stop members of the crowd from passing bongs and getting high.

"This is freedom of speech," said an Ann Arbor resident known as "Eagle Man," who stood on a cement bench wearing American flag pants and a matching hat. "I do just what my name says."

"I stand above the crowd and watch. People gettin' busted for this is inhuman," he said.

Not everyone on the Diag was there to get high. Some students said they saw Hash Bash as an opportunity to promote human unity.

Rackham student Jesus De La Maria stood sober in the middle of the Diag, clutching a copy of a John Milton book and reading poems to a small crowd.

"The people here have no facades, they pretty much understand (life) is all about the human connection - the proximity of one human mind to another," Maria said.

Paul DeRienzo, editor in chief of High Times magazine, urged participants not to allow police officers to invade their rights to privacy by searching their cars as they left the event.

"The cops (may) pull you over for the 'proverbial broken tail light,'" DeRienzo said. "If they ask you to search your car, as Nancy Reagan said, 'Just say no.'"

The Diag crowd, after hearing DeRienzo's pun, broke out into applause.

Marvin Marvin, a nationally renowned hemp activist said, "It's insane for the government to have a war against the most valuable plant on the planet."

An Ann Arbor man who called himself "Snowball" sat on the corner of North University Avenue and State Street to watch what he called his favorite day of the year.

Wearing a multicolored robe, Snowball pulled out two joints, which he purchased with money he had solicited from Hash Bashers.

"The Hash Bash used to be an illegal scene," Snowball said as he pointed at the tents at the corner of North University Avenue and State Street. But the Hash Bash "is no longer about the people - it's commercialism."

The bash attracted visiting merchants, who pushed everything from handcrafted drug paraphernalia to Hash Park T-shirts, which feature characters from the television comedy "South Park."

While the crowds were smoking in the streets, bands and comedians performed at the Michigan League Underground at "Keep off the Grass," an event sponsored by the university and community groups to provide a healthy alternative to Hash Bash.

The event only attracted 100 to 200 people, but coordinators called it a success.

"One of the things we're hearing from young people is, 'You don't want us to do drugs. What else is there for us to do?'" said event coordinator Jamie Atkins, an Ann Arbor police officer and Drug Abuse Resistance and Education program teacher. "This is an event, if I was their age, that I would want to attend."

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