Chong Takes Potshots at Grass Laws

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, May 3, 2003.

  1. By Jim Slotek, Sun Media
    Source: Edmonton Sun

    Tommy Chong's first joint, the one that was supposed to turn him into a homicidal maniac, was handed to him in Calgary in 1957 by a Chinese bass player. It was a life-changing experience, not least because he and partner Cheech Marin would one day earn many millions of dollars with pot-comedy albums and movies like Up In Smoke.
    "I was 17 years old," Chong says over the phone from his home in Pacific Palisades, California, where, he says, "I live two blocks away from Steven Spielberg.

    There's all kinds of famous people on this street. And they all smoke pot."

    Back to 1950s Alberta.

    "This Chinese blues guy, a bass player named Mah ... Eddie Mah? I can't remember. He gave me my first joint and my first Lenny Bruce record. He'd been in California where he bought them. No one knew what pot was, so you could bring it across the border without worrying.

    "I kept that one joint. It lasted me a long time. I'd take a few tokes and put it out. It really changed my life. I quit school right away and decided I wanted to be a blues musician."

    Chong says he used to hang out at a little jazz club in Calgary called the Flat Five, and continued his blues education in Vancouver.

    "Vancouver was weird. You couldn't get pot as easy as you could get heroin," he says.

    "Heroin I avoided. The way I stayed off coke was I never bought it. The only other drug I liked was acid. Both acid and pot gave me religious experiences. I've always been a seeker, a student of the Bible, and pot really enhanced that."

    In fact, Chong sees the Bible as full of drug references - Moses's burning bush, God speaking in a cloud of smoke, etc.

    But marijuana wouldn't become his source of income for years, even after he ditched guitar playing for improv comedy with his own Vancouver-based troupe, CityWorks. It was in "Van" that he met a comic named Richard "Cheech" Marin.

    "We started a group together, and played strip clubs. Lots of sex jokes but no pot jokes. Then we moved to L.A. and one night we played near Cheech's home town in the San Fernando Valley. And we weren't going over.

    "And I said, 'You're from here, man, there must be some kind of character we can pull out!' And he started doing the 'Low-rider' and I started doing 'The Stoner,' who became our characters Pedro and Man."

    Cheech and Chong split in 1984. Cheech opted for a straight acting career, Chong for stand-up comedy. They dovetailed, ironically, in 1997, when Chong visited Cheech on the set of Nash Bridges, and came away with a bud in his pocket. Chong was sniffed out by a dog at Vancouver airport and let go with a minimum of hassle by apologetic customs guards.

    Now they're back together, writing another movie. And after nearly 50 years of pot smoking, Chong has been slapped with his first felony charge - using the mails for illegal purposes.

    In a nationwide bust of people selling drug paraphernalia over the Internet, Drug Enforcement Agency officers broke into Chong's house and a factory in Gardenia, California, where he and one of his sons were making and selling Tommy Chong Glass Water Bongs.

    "It was 5:30 in the morning, the SWAT team and helicopters. They came busting in with the guns drawn, yelling 'Don't move!' They'd been investigating me for a year, spent a lot of money. And there was nothing to investigate. We were wide open. We got a California business licence. Our only crime was selling to an undercover cop in Pennsylvania."

    Chong appears ready to plea-bargain, "and I've been told if I don't cause a spectacle, I'll get off with a slap on the wrist.

    "Pot laws are racist," he says. "They're used to provide an excuse to arrest blacks, and take away their vote, because, in the U.S., once you've been convicted of a felony, you can't vote.

    "The paraphernalia law is even worse. They (the studios) put out lunchboxes with my face on showing me smoking a joint, from the movie Up In Smoke, and that's legal. The thermos bottle in it could be used as a bong.

    "The law is f---ed."

    Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
    Author: Jim Slotek, Sun Media
    Published: Friday, May 2, 2003
    Copyright: 2003 Canoe Limited Partnership

    Related Article & Web Site:

    Tommy Chong's Web Site

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