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Hash Bash 2015 a call to action for Michigan Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Ann Arbor’s annual celebration of all things cannabis, known as the Hash Bash, returns this Saturday. Thousands of marijuana advocates from throughout Michigan and beyond are expected to swarm the University of Michigan Diag at noon for a two-hour rally featuring speakers ranging from comedian Tommy Chong to Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, as well as activist John Sinclair, for whom the original rally was held in 1972.

The annual event, which organizers call a “speak out and smoke down” protest, has a long history in Ann Arbor, now in its 44th year. The addition of 76-year-old Chong, of “Cheech and Chong” fame, to this year’s lineup is expected to draw a larger crowd than usual. Serving as the political backdrop for this year’s festivities is the prospect of a 2016 ballot initiative to fully legalize marijuana in Michigan, not just for medical purposes.

Representatives from the newly formed Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative Committee will be discussing their plans at the rally. The group is planning to launch a petition drive this year to put a legalization proposal before Michigan voters in November 2016 to preserve and expand the state’s medical marijuana law, create a system for taxation and regulation of marijuana for use by people who are 21 and older, and permit hemp farming. The group argues that could bring thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to Michigan, including new tax revenue for roads and schools. Recent polling suggests roughly half of Michigan voters support the concept of legalization and taxation of marijuana.