LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says he isn’t worried about the political risks of appearing at a pro-marijuana rally in Ann Arbor this weekend.

Bernero is expected to speak in support of legalizing recreational marijuana Saturday afternoon at the 44th annual Hash Bash on the University of Michigan’s campus.

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“My message is the time has come. It’s time to recognize reality,” Bernero told WWJ’s Charlie Langton. “The people here in Lansing have spoken and they voted to decriminalize, to legalize a couple years ago. But it’s hard for us to do that when the state law and the federal law remain ridiculous.”

Bernero will be discussing the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana and how recreational marijuana can improve communities, in what he called ” a crusade to end prohibition.”

“Number one is recognizing that the system has failed. We’re criminalizing people, we’ve created generations of problems and we’ve filled the criminal justice system, so-called. I mean, we can save millions and billions. We can take marijuana from the expenditure side of government to the revenue side,” he said. “And you’re going to allow the police to concentrate on hard drugs that actually are addictive and that actually result in overdose and deaths. You know, we have far more tragic incidents with alcohol — I mean look at the alcohol poisoning every year when the kids go back to college, you have kids that binge drink. When do you have kids overdosing on marijuana when they go back to college?”

Bernero said he never tried the drug because it was illegal and “I was a nerd, I had better things to do,” and he probably wouldn’t try marijuana if it was decriminalized.

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“That’s the thing. It’s not like people are going to rush to go do this. It’s available now. We have driven people underground. Why don’t we stop and get rational on marijuana? Tax it, regulate it, educate people. That’s the answer,” he said. “This is a natural substance, a substance that people can grow. We’ve already recognized its medicinal value and it’s just time to get real. My God. When people say ‘Free the weed’ I say ‘Free the people.’ Free the entrepreneurship, free the jail space, free the economy.”

Tommy Chong, of the comedic duo “Cheech and Chong,” is also scheduled to appear at Hash Bash as the keynote speaker.

The pro-marijuana event dates back to the 1970s, when Ann Arbor became one of the first places in the country to decriminalize marijuana with passage of the $5 fine law.

Bernero was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2010.

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