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March 30, 1990 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-03-30
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"'ok AAhk



the Diag will fill
with users of the
drug protesting its
illegality and celebrating its
use at the 19th (actually the
17th as no one showed up in
1984 & 85) annual Hash Bash.
This year the Bash again has a
large political significance, as
the voters will decide the fate
of the $5 fine section of the
City Charter on Monday. (see
The nature of this year's
Bash is still in question. In
November the University
granted the National
Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws (NORML) a
permit to use amplified
speaking equipment on the
Diag. Then in February the U
revoked this permit, citing
underage drinking and illegal
drug use as a reason. This
prompted a lawsuit by the
American Civil Liberties
Union which has yet to be
resolved at this writing.
If one examines the history
of the $ fine and the Hash
Bash that has come to
symbolize/celebrate/mock the
law, one will see that the
political hot air exhaled over
the issue recently is actually
some pretty stale smoke.
A common misconception of
the Hash Bash holds that the
first one occurred to celebrate
the passage of the near non-
law. Actually, the $5 law didn't
exist until after the second
Bash. The Diag hosted the 1st
Ann Arbor Hash Festival (It
wasn't called the 'Hash Bash'
until '74) to celebrate the re-
definition of the sentence for
possession of marijuana by the
State of Michigan on April 1,
1972. But the actual
beginnings of the $5 fine lie a
bit farther back.
Before that date the
maximum sentence for the
felony of marijuana (a "hard
narcotic") possession in
by Brian Jarvinen

and still tokin'

snow on the Diag while a few
policemen looked on. (Some
things do change however, as
the Daily noted conspicuous
undercover narcs in "crew cuts
and trench coats.") But many
more changes were to come in
the heady month of April 1972.
Soon thereafter a U.S.
District Court Judge declared
Ann Arbor's existing marijuana
ordinance (which already
defined possession a
misdemeanor punishable by a
maximum of 90 days in jail and
a $100 fine) to be
unconstitutional as well. This
added to the confusion
surrounding the legality of the
drug, making marijuana quasi-
legal for a brief period.
In the Ann Arbor city
elections that month a new
third party, the Human Rights
Party, won two city council
seats riding on the strength of
a heavy student turnout. In
one of their first council

meetings on the 17th, the two
HRP councilmembers proposed
that the possession fine be set
at the incredible twenty-five
cents. The four Democrats on
the council proposed an $11
fine. Not surprisingly, a
compromise was reached,
setting the fine at $5. The
Dems and the HRP joined
forces against'the Republicans
to pass the new law on a 6-5
vote. By June 1, 1972, Ann
Arbor's most famous law had
taken effect.
everyone knew
of the Hash
Festival, and
5,000 people
jammed the
Diag. The Daily observed that
"crowds began forming on the
Diag as early as 11:30 a.m.,
long before most young people
around here are even awake."
But the smokers
experienced the dangers of
political complacency the very
next day when three
Republicans and a GOP mayor
were elected to the city
council. The Republicans soon
used their new majority on the
council to rescind the $5
ordinance on July 9, 1973.
To restore the $5 fine, the
HRP began a petition drive to
put the issue on the 1974

ballot. The ballot proposal
would amend the city charter,
which could only be changed
by a vote of Ann Arbor
citizens. The HRP hoped to put
the $5 fine out of reach of any
council in the future.
Before the vote occurred,
the proposition faced another
challenge, from State Attorney
General Frank Kelly, who,
objected to the local
prosecution provision of the
amendment. But as the
amendment was placed on the
ballot by a citizen petition,
there was nothing he or then-
Governor Milliken could do.
The 1974 Hash Bash drew
only 1,500 people, but the
most significant occurrence of
that spring was the enshrining
of the $5 cannabis fine
permanently in the city
charter. The proposition
passed with slightly over 50
percent of the vote.
Throughout the rest of the
1970s, Hash Bash attendance
and attendees remained high.
But changes in the event
began; increasing numbers of
high school students and
people from outside of Ann
Arbor made up the majority of
the bashers. One student
complained "the whole thing
is getting too commerc.al."
By 1979, only two thousand
people attended, the majority

of them non-students. The
large amounts of trash
generated annually and lack of
student support even led the
Daily to call for the end of the
Bash in an editorial.
When the 1983 Bash rolled
up, a meager twenty-
five souls attended.
This was in spite of
the first challenge to
the $5 law, placed on "Pre
the ballot that spring en0
by a Republican
controlled council
after a citizen "Wh(
petition drive only marl
collected 2,000 of
the 5,200 (5 percent "I do
of the voters) Arho
signatures required
to put charter
amendments on the "I'm
ballot. Ann Arborites wron
voted to keep the BaSh
law with 60 percent
of a mere 25,000
voters supporting it. "he
The proposition did 1973
generate a significant
student turn-out,
however, helping
two Democratic
councilmembers win
election from the
student-dominated wards.
But by 1984, the Hash Bash
had been forgotten, a victim of
increasing apathy and a
general lack of publicity. April


1, 1985 passed without
incident as well.
However in 1986 the-Daily
printed several mentions of
the event on April Fool's Day,
and 130 hardy 'heads showed
up despite inclement weather.

on Friday).
The rest of t
certainly know
and its reputat
liberalness. Re(
Senator Doug
proposed a bill
fory of

4Ai 4-L ;LI

The more things change, the more they stay the same, says some guy on TV. Although
that's hardly a universal truism, it seems to apply quite nicely to Ann Arbor's famous
reputation as the home of the $5 mariuana possession fine, the most lenient law regulating
the substance in the lower 48 states.

Michigan was 10 years in
prison. In the summer of 1%9,
Ann Arbor activist John
Sinclair received just such a
sentence for giving two joints
to an undercover police officer.
Sinclair's record of minor
offenses, his publicly
outspoken, radical stance
against the status quo of the
period and his reluctance to
show remorse for his 'crime' all
weighed against him during
his sentencing.
The harsh reality of his
sentence did not sit well with
his politically active friends,
who staged numerous protests
and benefit concerts on his
behalf. These culminated in
the well-publicized rally/
concert headlined by John &
Yoko Lennon at Crisler Arena
on December 10, 1971.
Then-University President
Robben Fleming used the
negative publicity associated
with the drug use at that event
and the resulting complaints
from alumni as an excuse to
deny the use of Hill
Auditorium for a "Get Out the
Vote" rally planned for the
evening of April 1, 1972. He
had to back down the next day
and allow the rally to occur
when a different group agreed
to sponsor the gathering,
assuring Fleming that no
smoking would take place
inside the auditorium.
Shortly after the rally at

Crisler, the Michigan Supreme
Court declared the severe
marijuana law
unconstitutional. This led to
the reduction of the possession
sentence in the state, to a
maximum of one year in jail

and a $1,000 fine. The crime
also became a misdemeanor.
To celebrate, the Ann Arbor
Hash Festival was to be held
on April 1, 1972.
At this first gathering, 500
tokers braved the cold rain &

- back strong in
1988, including
some impressive
organization on
the part of activists in NORML,
with a large contingent from
High Times magazine. Speakers
such as Ed Rosenthal decried a
country where it was becoming
easier and cheaper to buy
crack cocaine than marijuana.
The High Times group
returned in 1989; a rock 'n' roll
group played on the steps of
the Grad library, Ed Rosenthal
fired up the crowd again, and
author Jack Herer introduced
us to the many environmental
benefits and industrial
potential of the hemp plant.
The crowd budded to 2,000
smokers, by far the largest
turnout of the '80s.
Last year the revitalized
Hash Bash also began to serve
as a model for many more
successful protests on
campuses and in major cities
throughout the country. The
Bash is now one of the stops,
though probably still the
largest, on the NORML
Legalization Tour each spring.
(The tour will be in Lansing

allow cities suc]
and East Lansir
controlled subs
lenient than the
State law. Oddl
Jernigan suppor
though it woulk
local power of i:
Such a bill will
eventually, as a
proposed to the
curb drug use is
This year the
be a very public
last time the $5
on in 1983, a gro
to keep the fine
to stay away fro
order to avoid n
publicity. After
Harvest Festiva
Wisconsin last f
Czar" William I
point of visiting
castigate the pa
such an overt fl
opposition to th
Drugs. What th
population will
year's Hash Bas

This is the first of a two-pa r
exploring drugs in Ann Arb


WEEKEND March 30, 1990

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