Lansing mayor, comedian Tommy Chong speak at pro-pot rally

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A crowd that included legalized marijuana advocates and an untold number of users gathered Saturday at the University of Michigan to hear speakers extoll the virtues of decriminalizing pot.

Headlined by comedian and famed marijuana supporter Tommy Chong, the 44th annual “Hash Bash” brought together people of various ages, races and backgrounds to talk about cannabis.

“What we’re having here today is a celebration of the freedom of the greatest plant known to man,” Chong said.

Chong, who along with Cheech Marin, made up the popular acting and music duo “Cheech and Chong.” He has in past years said legalizing marijuana on a federal level would offer numerous benefits, including a boost to the U.S. economy if it were taxed.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero also took the stage on Michigan’s Central Campus Diag.

“It is a shame that in the year 2015, pot is still politically polarizing,” said Bernero, the Democratic candidate for governor in 2010. “A lot of people are still afraid to embrace legalization. I am proud to say my thinking has evolved.”

Bernero, 51, said he’s never smoked marijuana.

A statewide marijuana legalization ballot initiative is planned for 2016 that aims to allow residents to cultivate their own plants and allow other uses of the drug.

Voters in six Michigan communities passed marijuana decriminalization measures in November. Voters in two Oakland County communities passed similar measures in August, while voters in Lansing were among residents in three cities who approved decriminalization proposals in 2013.

The decriminalization measures put the communities in potential conflict with state law. Michigan bans marijuana use and possession unless it’s medical marijuana.

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