In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Hash Bash festival — now in its 50th consecutive year — hosted a live-streamed variety show featuring key political figures, athletes, musicians, business owners and other prominent voices in the pro-cannabis movement.
In accordance with public health guidelines, the organizers of Hash Bash encouraged participants to celebrate the festival from the comfort of their own homes. Despite these efforts, some enthusiasts took the initiative to host an in-person smoke-in on the Diag, Hash Bash’s birthplace.
For any other pre-pandemic year, thousands of marijuana activists, protesters and enthusiasts from across the globe travel to Ann Arbor to light a joint while advocating for marijuana legislation and celebrating cannabis culture. Last year’s rally was held completely online after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person activity.
In Nov. 2018, the state of Michigan passed Proposal I, making it legal for those 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of recreational marijuana. Michigan was the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana, following other states like California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.
Both the in-person and virtual events commemorated the cannabis movement’s achievements while advocating for progressive marijuana legislation on the federal level.
The festival first began in 1972, four months after a freedom rally in protest of the conviction of longtime activist and poet John Sinclair, whom the Michigan Supreme Court sentenced to 9.5 to 10 years for the possession of two marijuana joints in 1971. Sinclair organized the first Hash Bash in protest of the Controlled Substances Act. Since then, Hash Bash has transformed into a large-scale festival drawing in social activists and cannabis enthusiasts from all across the state and country.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily prior to the event, Adam Rosenberg, University of Michigan Business