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Mill & Hash Bash

April 12, 2011

Every year, thousands of people gather during the first weekend of April in Ann Arbor to celebrate the tradition of Hash Bash. Individuals of different ages, backgrounds and beliefs gather in support of the legalization of marijuana. This controversial event has taken place since 1973 and has drawn wide attention to the issue.

Throughout his writing, Mill supports a broad freedom of expression in society and encourages individuals to engage in “experiments of living.” However, he treats this freedom as a duty rather than an excuse for individuals to act recklessly. Mill believes that individuals should test their own beliefs to improve themselves as well as society. To relate Mill to Hash Bash, I think the argument could be made both ways regarding Mill’s response to the tradition of Hash Bash.


Mill focuses on the effects individuals or groups of individuals can have on society and recognizes thats society can progress from testing bad “hypotheses.” Even if Mill hypothetically opposed the principle of Hash Bash, would he support its practice since it could be considered an “experiment of living?” Would Mill consider something that has lasted for 40 years to still be an “experiment?” Or, would he believe Hash Bash to be an example of an enduring attempt to protest laws in society?


Although Hash Bash takes place on the University of Michigan campus, it’s obvious when walking around that a large portion of people in attendance are not college students. Although some people attend Hash Bash to legitimately protest current laws regarding marijuana use, many people use it as an excuse to smoke in public. Seeing high school age kids wander around the Diag makes you wonder whether they are “cultivating” themselves through this experience.

Mill believes that the freedom of expression imposes a duty on individuals to test and improve their own beliefs, and in turn this experimental process will benefit society. So, even if Mill believed legalizing marijuana would not positively impact society, testing the legalization of marijuana (and therefore protesting it) could help society in the long run. When it comes down to whether or not Mill would support Hash Bash, I believe the base argument is if Mill would believe the use of marijuana encourages self-cultivation or if it is a destructive component to society.

  1. Jacob Miller permalink
    April 12, 2011 12:37 PM

    The connection between Mill and Ann Arbor’s annual Hash Bash event is uneasy. If I interpreted Mill correctly, he would not be in favor of going against the law over something that would not be for the benefit to society. You referred to the smoking of marijuana and other drugs as an ‘experiment of living’ when in fact this so-called ‘experiment’ is only killing the body. I don’t think Mill agrees with this concept at all.

    You bring up an excellent point that Mill states about how people should test bad ‘hypotheses;’ however, in today’s society, there have been many tests of the application of this drug and it is one of the reasons why it is illegal in the United States, other than for medical purposes.

    Now I know that the participants of Hash Bash are indeed expressing their freedom of speech and assembly; however, this hypothesis has already been tested and there is very little evidence that the use of marijuana results in positive outcomes.

    Your quandry over what the high school students you mentioned were doing in the ‘Diag’ of the UM campus is completely ridiculous. Let’s come to reality, the students thought it would be ‘cool’ to go around some smokers and possibly try to get involved in the festivities. There was no ‘cultivating’ going on, it was simply kids acting their age and trying to get some attention from others by performing ‘adult’ activities, which alone is a false statement.

    Overall, I’m going to have to disagree with your first argument and say that the use of marijuana is an unnecessary attempt to legalize a drug that is indeed harmful to society and the body itself. The only ‘cultivating’ going on should be the understanding of why the government has made it illegal, in which Mill would thus agree with.

  2. Khushi Desai permalink
    April 12, 2011 11:07 PM

    Contrary to this post, I believe while Mill believes in individual freedoms, he would not be okay with smoking Marijuana because:
    1) It is against the law.
    2) It is harmful to your body as well as it affects people around you in a negative way.
    However, I do believe that Mill would support the concept of Ann Arbor’s Hash Bash. The goal of is to reform federal, state, and local marijuana laws, and this is expressed through speeches, live performances, and a large rally. Mill would not appreciate the people who smoke on Umich property as an act of civil disobedience because this would be breaking the law, and is frowned upon.
    The point to argue should not be whether marijuana is good or bad, but rather how Mill would react to the ways in which people behave during Hash Bash, and how this affects society.

    I agree with Jacob when he claims that “The only ‘cultivating’ going on should be the understanding of why the government has made it illegal, in which Mill would thus agree with.” This is a very good argument.

  3. Zachary TeBeau permalink
    April 14, 2011 11:17 AM

    I do think that Mill would agree with some aspects of this post, but not specifically Hash Bash. This is because even though it is already against the law, I don’t think that making it legal is necessarily a benefit to society, so I don’t think that Mills would be supportive of Hash Bash.

    However, Mills would be totally supportive of the organized protest to change the law. I think that aspect of Hash Bash is a excellent representation of testing hypotheses on the laws of society.

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