Hash Bash, 1977
A mystery explained
by Kimberly Elsifor
In 1977, when I was fifteen years old, I sat on my porch in Ypsilanti with one of my neighbors, watching six of my friends pile into Bo's sweet 1969 black-on-black 'Cuda. They were as excited as if they were headed to a Foreigner concert, but they weren't: they were headed into Ann Arbor for the Hash Bash. As they drove off, I asked "What the heck is a Hash Bash?"
Depending on which teenage friend I asked, I got all sorts of answers to that question:
1. Something like a Florida spring break hosted by the university to recruit new students to a school with a party atmosphere.
2. The city of Ann Arbor lifted the laws on marijuana for one day every year, but just on campus.
3. The Ann Arbor police had to get rid of all the marijuana they had taken in raids, so one day a year they gave it away, with a stipulation that it had to be smoked on the Diag.
I was extremely gullible. After all, these were my friends--why would they lie?
Now I know they lied because it was funny to make up stories and funnier to see somebody swallow them all hook, line, and sinker. But since I didn't smoke marijuana, I didn't need to find out what the Hash Bash really was. It would be years before I learned that it had started in 1972 as a celebration of Ann Arbor's marijuana law, which reduced the penalty for possession to a $5 (now $25) ticket.
It would be many more years before Ann Arbor and then the state legalized "medical" marijuana. Bo was on that bandwagon, though, long before he knew there was one. He suffered with ulcers and migraines that began when he was in his early teens and told me, as he lit up a fat joint, that marijuana helped with the pain in his gut and took the edge off the migraine.
Bo was lucky; he was arrested a
lot for pot possession, but never served any prison time. Today, as an ovarian cancer survivor with lots of other things wrong with me, I am more than a wee bit interested. I still haven't tried it, but, with twenty-twenty hindsight, if I'd had the opportunity back when I was suffering the agony of chemotherapy, I might have partaken.
I am not quite ready to support decriminalization. I worry about the effect on the immature brains of the teenagers who will be able to get their hands on it more easily than they can now. It may not be addictive, but I do tend to be on the side that believes that for some it can lead to bigger problems.
I may be wrong about that, but one thing I am not wrong on is the danger of driving stoned, especially as an inexperienced driver. Bo died that way, while he was still in his early twenties.
If you do go to the Hash Bash--it's at noon on April 6--remember that the university cops make arrests under the state law, not Ann Arbor's. So if you plan to smoke, wait until you get to the Monroe Street Fair.
[Originally published in April, 2013.]