A proud man stood before a crowd of thousands with his six-year old boy and said these words:
"We're here today because cannabis oil has made my son Ryan's life better."
A pretty young woman stood with her mother before the same crowd of supporters and told them:
"I'm 18 years old. I'm here today because cannabis oil saved my life."
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the new Hash Bash: younger, stronger and longer than before.
The man is Jim Powers and his son Ryan has a terrible disease. The young woman, Alysa Erwin, detailed her lengthy fight with cancer during a moving speech delivered to the rapt crowd.
They weren't the only young people to address the masses during the 2015 Hash Bash. Four members of Student for Sensible Drug Policy took the microphone on that day. Hash Bash Director of Operations Nick Zettell is an under-30 with boundless energy and a solid belief in marijuana law reform.
The other end of the age spectrum was well-represented, too. Featured speaker at both the Hash Bash and the accompanying Monroe Street Fair was Tommy Chong, 76 years young. Chong, Bash inspiration John Sinclair, Detroit's Marvin Surowitz and legendary Ann Arbor activist Chuck Ream were arguably the most senior of the speakers, and their wisdom was well-received by the crowd.
Sinclair wowed the crowd with some beat poetry straight out of the 1960's, with accompaniment on guitar by the incredible Laith Al-Saadi. That style of audio art never gets old, it just gets better.
Powers sounded like a 60's protest leader as he delivered a strong message to state legislators who have failed to pass protections for use of concentrated forms of cannabis for the state's medical marijuana participants. "The state of Michigan has failed my family. The state of Michigan has failed every one of us," Powers said. "It has been two years and we are still not protected."
Young Alysa echoed that message. "By law, I am taking medicine that is saving my life but is still illegal," she said, reading her speech from note cards while her proud mother held the microphone for her.
"It's sad that I have to fear for my life by taking something that saved my life."
Powers told the crowd the solution is to legalize marijuana by supporting the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative, known as MILegalize. "MILegalize is not only going to legalize marijuana for everyone 21 years and older, MILegalize is going to protect my six year old son and it's going to protect me."
"Absolutely this is the strongest year I've seen since I founded the Fair in 2002," said Charlie Strackbein, Founder and impresario of the Monroe Street Fair. "By far the best year in attendance."
Certainly the featured attraction, Tommy Chong, contributed to the boost in crowd size but good weather helped, too. The sky in Ann Arbor was partly cloudy but locally, there was an extensive cloud covering Monroe Street for six hours that day.
Strackbein estimated 8,000-15,000 attendees circulated through the Fair during the course of the day.
Despite the larger crowd there was surprisingly little police action. Reports indicate only three arrests were made, and those were for people accused of selling cannabis.
More attendees, same good behavior. Some things about the Hash Bash and MSF are comfortable just the way they are.
"Hash Bash was always known as the Hour of Power," Adam Brook has told me. Last year's Bash was one and one-half hours long; this year's protest was stretched to two hours.
The standard list of speakers carries names like longtime Bash frontman Brook, noted attorney Matthew Abel and industry representatives Robin Schneider of the NPRA and Jamie Lowell. Joining us onstage this year were attorney Michael Komorn, veteran Dakota Serna, Dori Edwards of Women Grow, Steven Sharpe of Michigan NORML, Dr. Dave Peters, legendary cannabis cultivator DJ Short and MILegalize chairman Jeffrey Hank, an attorney from Lansing.
Doubling up on the time allows for twice as many speakers, including one that wasn't even there.
A statement from Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer was read to the crowd by Mark Passerini, a Bash emcee and member of the organizing committee for several years running. Politicos that were present and spoke were Ann Arbor's own Councilperson Sabra Briere and House Representatives Jeff Irwin and Michael Callton.
That extra hour gives the crowd exposure to a greater number of voices, each bearing a worthy message. "2015 is the year of action," I told the crowd.
"You can do it!" Irwin told the people.
"Free the weed means free the people," said Lansing mayor Virg Bernero, and led the crowd in a chant. He pledged his support in this way:
"A lot of people are still afraid to embrace legalization. I am proud to say that my thinking has evolved," Bernero said. "Most of you were ahead of me but I am taking a stand for sanity today."
Source: The Compassion Chronicles