Tommy Chong speaks during the 45th annual Hash Bash at the U-M Diag in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Junfu Han, The Ann Arbor News via Associated Press)

University of Michigan Hash Bash draws thousands — and Tommy Chong

Smell of weed in the air during 45th annual pot rally; petition circulated for November recreational legalization vote

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — An estimated 8,000 people attended at the annual University of Michigan Hash Bash in Ann Arbor in support of marijuana use.

And as in past versions of the event, the smell of the weed was in the air Saturday on the school’s central campus Diag as various speakers lauded the benefits of marijuana, The Ann Arbor News reported.

“I’ll tell you how cannabis really helped me, and it can help everybody — it gave me an appetite for food, which is really an appetite for life,” said actor-musician Tommy Chong who returned to the 45th annual Hash Bash Saturday.

Chong, 77, told the crowd how marijuana kept his appetite healthy during prostate and rectal cancer treatments.

“Because if you want to die, quit eating. You will die,” he said. “We need food. And the one thing that cannabis does, it gives you the munchies, and thank God for the munchies.”

Activists also were busy Saturday collecting petition signatures for a November ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Michigan. A fundraiser for the initiative was planned for Saturday night in Ann Arbor.

Voters in six Michigan communities passed marijuana decriminalization measures in November 2014. Voters in two Oakland County communities passed similar measures that August, while voters in Lansing were among residents in three cities who approved decriminalization proposals in 2013.

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

University of Michigan public safety and security spokeswoman Diane Brown told The Ann Arbor News that three people were arrested for marijuana possession Saturday on the school’s Diag during the rally.