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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Free the Weed 73 - by John Sinclair

Highest greetings from the former Motor City, where I’ve been celebrating at the many events held during Michigan’s spring marijuana festivities that started for me at the THC Expo at the Roostertail in March, continued through the intensive Hash Bash ceremonies on the Diag at the University of Michigan for the 46th consecutive year and at the Monroe Street Fair a couple of blocks away, then at the first Hash Bash Cup ceremonies at the Wyndham Gardens hotel and the traditional Hash Bash party at the Blind Pig with the great Macpodz band and their guests, including this writer.

 The Hash Bash Cup is a welcome addition to the annual celebration of smoking marijuana openly in defiance of the state laws, and in recognition of Ann Arbor’s historic $5.00 (now $25.00) fine for marijuana violations and recent vote to fully legalize marijuana use in the city, the Ann Arbor police close off Monroe Street at both ends and let the people mingle and smoke freely while shopping at the many stands and enjoying the music emanating from the stage.

     The Wyndham Gardens hotel was fully booked by the Cup organizers under the direction of Adam Brook and, absent any random guests who might object to the theme of the event, the celebrants at the Hash Bash Cup tested the strains submitted by the entrant growers, voted on their favorite preparations, browsed the booths and tables and bought lots of weed-related products from the expo vendors, and enjoyed music emanating from a big stage placed above the main floor for two full nights of total fun. I had the privilege of performing with my old pal and fellow former marijuana defendant, pianist Bob Baldori and his band, and with my producer Tino G and the Funky D Records crew as well.

     Following the Hash Bash activities I enjoyed a little series of signing parties for my book It’s All Good sponsored by Horner Books and MMMReport at Crazy Wisdom Books in Ann Arbor, at the terrific new bookshop in Flint called Totem Books followed by a concert with Macpodz at Churchill’s in downtown Flint, and at Dr. Bob’s Psychedelic Healing Shack in Detroit, where I returned on April 20 to host a 420 party with Jeff Grand and Bobby East on guitars, James Whalen on harmonica and Ras Kente’s Detroit reggae band on board.

     I’m probably leaving something out, but the last thing I remember is driving up to Flint in a vicious rainstorm on 4/20 and making an appearance at the annual 420 Party at Buddy’s Clio Cultivation headquarters north of the city, nor far from the Auto City Speedway where High Times presents its Clio Cannabis Cup in the summertime.  Buddy says “Rain Or Shine,” and it was certainly raining on the ground between the stage and the big tent where all the celebrants were gathered out of the weather. Everybody had a great time but it was sort of a bizarre experience for the performers on stage to be looking out through the rain while we were playing.

     First of all it reminded me of the Hash Bash last year when it snowed on Ann Arbor all afternoon and we had our fun just the same. Then it made me think of the strangest experience I’ve ever had on stage when the MC-5 played one evening back in the late 1960s at a drive-in theater outside of Grand Rapids where it rained like crazy and all the people stayed in their cars, honking their horns and flashing their lights at the end of each song in lieu of applause.

     My month of hard labor in the Michigan trenches came to a conclusion on National Record Store Day with a performance with Tino G at the Found Sound record shop in Ferndale in celebration of the vinyl release of my Funky D album Mobile Homeland on the Jett Plastic Recordings label, selected as one of 50 vinyl releases for 2017 recommended for LP lovers to buy in stores across the country. It’s my first vinyl LP after about 25 album releases on CD and it was quite a thrill to be recognized by the record industry at last—albeit the smallest but most passionate segment of the record-buying populace.

     Later that evening I had the honor of opening a pair of shows for my pal Rodriquez, probably better known as Sugar Man, a fierce advocate of marijuana legalization and my friend since 1968. Rodriguez wanted to say something in the face of the ugliness that’s recently descended upon our great country courtesy of our reality TV star and real estate developer posing as the president, so he filled up first the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac and then the Old Miami Bar in the Cass Corridor for a double-header of music and poetry meant for the common people like ourselves.

 It’ll be over by the time you read this, but the last event of the glorious month of April this year in Michigan turned out to be the 50th anniversary celebration of the Belle Isle Love-In on April 30. On this date in 1967 a few thousand of us showed up on Belle Isle to smoke joints, dance to the music of the MC-5, Seventh Seal, Billy C. & The Sunshine and other bands, and otherwise celebrate our existence together in the open on a beautiful spring day in Detroit.

     The Belle Isle Love-In of 1967 was organized by our hippie collective called Trans-Love Energies, a broad-based non-profit cultural coalition developed by Rob Tyner, Gary Grimshaw, Leni Sinclair and myself that produced dances, free concerts and benefits, managed bands, published the Warren-Forest Sun newspaper, provided emergency housing for footloose hippies and runaways from straight civilization, and agitated for the legalization of marijuana through a branch called Detroit LEMAR, founded by this writer in January 1965.

     I have to mention Trans-Love in the context of my one major disappointment last month—my dream of finally opening my medicinal cannabis coffeeshop was dashed when things failed to work out as planned once again. Ever since Michigan legalized medical marijuana in 2008 I’ve been trying to establish a little place where people can meet, show their medical card, have a coffee or juice, enjoy a smoke, tune in to a high-powered wi-fi connection and listen to music from Radio Free Amsterdam over the sound system.

     From 2008 to 2010 I tried to make this happen at the Bohemian National Home and gave up when they decided to grow weed instead. I paired up with a guy named Paul Freel who called himself “Hollywood” or “Hollis P. Wood” and tried to set up shop in his little space on Gratiot near Eastern Market that he wanted to call Trans-Love Energies. In 2012 he raised a bunch of money for the venture, ripped off the Trans-Love name and registered it as his own for-profit company, put me out of his place and opened the coffeeshop without me.

     I’ve pursued the concept with two or three potential partners since then but so far to no avail. I’m convinced that a city-based cannabis coffeeshop would be a popular cultural destination among a certain population of metro Detroiters and I’ll keep praying for its eventual inception, if only so I can have a decent place to hang out when I’m in town. Free The Weed!
April 25, 2017

©  2017 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

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