Ann Arbor's Hash Bash still rocking at 50

Hayley Harding
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — At the 50th anniversary Hash Bash on the University of Michigan's campus, one group sold edibles at the university's iconic Block M.

Others formed a drum circle; still others formed hacky sack circles around the Diag.

And at high noon, many of the attendees lit up, smoking marijuana in the same place people did 50 years prior at the very first Hash Bash.

"This is what the culture is all about," said Jack Leroy, 32, of Detroit. "It's peaceful, it's fun and we're all just having a good time."

Former Detroit Tigers pitcher joel Zumaya speaks to hundreds of people gathered for Hash Bash on Saturday, April 2, 2022.

Joel Zumaya, a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers from 2006 to 2010, told the hundreds in attendance that  throwing 100 mph fastballs ruined his arm and body and standard painkillers didn't help so he used marijuana. 

"Secretly, guys, I don't know how I never got caught. I smoked pot from 2006 all the way through until I retired," Zumaya told the crowd. 

 The Hash Bash started in 1972, shortly after the Michigan Supreme Court overturned the state's felony cannabis law. Previously, even possession would send someone to prison for 10 years.

Tyler Todd of Ann Arbor is ready to smoke at Hash Bash on the campus of the University of Michigan on Saturday, April 2, 2022. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

It wasn't inherently political, organizers say, and instead focused just on the culture of cannabis.

James Lawson, 31, of Jackson, who was smoking a large joint while he spoke, said he's been to two or three previous bashes. He said he keeps coming back because "there is nowhere better to smoke the herb."

"I'm here to get higher than a mother----," Lawson said. 

 As drug laws have changed, so has the bash. While the peak years of the Reagan-era war on drugs policies nearly ended the event in the mid-80s, it has since roared back.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks to hundreds during Hash Bash on Saturday, April 2, 2022.

Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who is up for re-election in Novermber, told the crowd that during her term her office has helped to expedite the expungement of marijuana convictions, and supported marijuana as a safe and legal option in the state and nation.

Rachel Smith of Ann Arbor smokes during Hash Bash on the campus of the University of Michigan on Saturday, April 2, 2022. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

Nessel said her predecessor as attorney general, Bill Schuette, spent too much time and money prosecuting marijuana cases, and if a Republican is elected attorney general some of the recently gained marijuana freedoms could be at risk.

"I believe the attorney general of this state has better things to do with your money than use it to throw people in jail and prison for marijuana," Nessel said.

Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, whose office does not charge people for use, possession or small-scale distribution of marijuana, said the state should do more to help those convicted of marijuana offenses expunge their records.

"We need to turn the page on the past and allow people who are continuing to struggle under criminal records the opportunity the Legislature gave them for a clean slate."