Michigan festival organizers hope to legalize marijuana

People attend the Denver 420 Rally, the world's largest celebration of both the legalization of cannabis and cannabis culture, May 21, 2016 in Denver Coloroado. JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The organizers of a marijuana rally in Ann Arbor hope this year’s event will be the last before cannabis is legalized in Michigan.

The 47th annual Hash Bash will be held next month at the University of Michigan, The Ann Arbor News reported . Politicians, professional athletes and legalization activists will speak at the event.

University officials warn attendees that campus police will follow state law and arrest people caught with marijuana on university property. Marijuana has been decriminalized elsewhere in the city since the 1970s, with the penalty being a $25 ticket for a first offense.

“Hash Bash has grown each year since the passage of Michigan’s medical cannabis laws. The event has also gained importance as a venue for activists, patients and public figures to speak out against the horrors of cannabis prohibition,” said Nick Zettell, co-chair of the festival’s planning committee. “The qualifications and reputations of this year’s speakers are unparalleled by years past and add legitimacy and diversity to the counter-cultural event.”

This year’s event could be the last that focuses on state prohibition, said Mark Passerini, the festival’s lead organizer. If marijuana is legalized, the next focus will be federal policy, he said.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol collected about 365,000 signatures last year in the hopes of getting a legalization proposal on the November ballot.

The proposal seeks to legalize recreational marijuana use for people 21 and older. It would tax and regulate marijuana much like alcohol. It’s still waiting for signature review by the state Bureau of Elections before it can be put on the ballot.

A group known as Healthy and Productive Michigan is against the legalization proposal because of economic, safety and health concerns related to recreational marijuana.

Michigan bans marijuana use and possession unless it’s medical marijuana.

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