Political optimism and skunkish-smelling smoke brought smiles to thousands of bleary-eyed faces today as a 44-year-old tradition returned to the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.
Cheers erupted as Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, 51, who said he’s never smoked marijuana, took the Hash Bash stage on the library steps advocating for legalized marijuana.
“It is a shame that in the year 2015, marijuana is still politically polarizing,” he said. “A lot of people are still afraid to embrace legalization. I am proud to say my thinking has evolved.”
He and other politicians, as well as medical-marijuana patients and other advocates, encouraged the crowd to get active at a time when public opinion has shifted in favor of decriminalizing cannabis.
Famed stoner comedian and cannabis activist Tommy Chong took the stage mid-way through the two-hour event, causing the haze of marijuana smoke to thicken.
“All marijuana use is medical use,” he said, drawing cheers as he spoke on the pro-legalization changes he’s seen across the country. “What we’re having here today is a celebration of the freedom of the greatest plant known to man.”
A foot-long joint about an inch thick was lit and eventually passed Chong’s way; he took a hit as he exited the stage. The young man who lit the joint didn’t have the chance to witness the puff, though, as he’d pulled his hoodie over his face and was holding his forehead, apparently overcome by the pot.
A couple of times during the series of speeches, crowd members waved security over to help people who weren’t feeling well. The mass of people filled the rectangle in front of the U-M Diag, spilling out for hundreds of feet. Some people blew bubbles while others sold food or danced in a drum circle.