USA - Tommy Chong says he was targeted

Discussion in 'Drug Policy Reform & Narco Politics' started by Alfa, May 15, 2004.

  1. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,288
    Messages:
    38,278
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    THIS IS YOUR GOVERNMENT ON DRUGS

    It sounds a bit like the answer to one of those old late night, "so
    whatever happened to..." questions.

    Tommy Chong, 65-year-old grandfather, the lesser-known half of the
    goofy late-70s burnout comedy duo Cheech and Chong, was convicted of
    the illegal sale of drug paraphernalia over the Internet (i.e. he
    marketed a line of glass bongs). In a bit of priceless comedic irony,
    the investigation was code-named Operation Pipe Dreams. Chong was
    sentenced to 9 months in prison on the second anniversary of September
    11.

    Chong, with no prior arrests, is an unlikely figure to wind up in
    prison for rarely enforced paraphernalia laws. However, much to his
    misfortune, he does have one asset that the Bush administration's
    Justice Department covets in spades. He's got a high profile.

    Chong's takedown was meant to send a message to every stoner in
    America. Dude, you cannot wink at The Man.

    Even as issues like Iraq, gay marriage and the environment command
    greater attention, the Bush administration has renewed the war on drugs.

    In this faith-based administration, the drug war is the ur-"values"
    war, the blueprint for the conservative kulturkampf. In fact, the drug
    war is even more ancient than most people realize.

    Temperance as a movement emerged in the early 1800's as drinking,
    previously considered healthful and a basic component of life, was
    identified with social disorder.

    It quickly became an issue of hearth, home and morality.

    Long before Bill Bennett gambled away his virtue book profits and
    before Richard Nixon, the first President to proclaim a "war on
    drugs," was born, the battle between the Wets and Drys was a defining
    political issue in America. From the 1880s until the end of
    prohibition, Americans endured fifty years of pitched battle over the
    drug alcohol.

    It's worth remembering that the drug war gave us not one but two
    Constitutional amendments: one banning alcohol, then another
    un-banning it. Despite alcohol's decisive win, or rather because of
    it, the battle moved to other fronts.

    In 2000, no sane person following drug policy would have suggested
    that within three years Tommy Chong would be imprisoned for selling
    paraphernalia. The trends of the 90s were decidedly favorable for
    reform. Between 1996 and 2000, voters passed 17 reform-oriented ballot
    initiatives on subjects as diverse as medical marijuana, limiting
    asset forfeiture abuse and treatment instead of incarceration. New
    Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, a Republican, called for legalization of
    marijuana and
    ultimately passed a range of reform measures.

    According to the Drug Policy Alliance (where I was formerly the
    director of National Affairs), 46 states passed 150 notable drug
    policy reforms between 1996 and 2002. Countries throughout the world,
    including close allies such as Britain and Australia began to
    experiment with reform, often going much farther than the U.S. without
    appearing to suffer especially ill effects.

    As a candidate for President, George W. Bush looked rather moderate on
    drug issues. In October of 1999, he answered a question from CNN about
    medical marijuana by stating that "I believe each state can choose
    that decision as they so choose." Later, after his election, he said
    "I think a lot of people are coming to the realization that maybe long
    minimum sentences for first-time users may not be the best way to
    occupy jail space and/or heal people from their disease." However, the
    arc of the drug war under Bush veered towards emphasizing morality and
    punitive policies within months of his inauguration.

    Bush Gives Drugs to the Far Right

    Drug Czar John Walters is perhaps the key element in this
    equation.

    In the 1980s, Walters served as an Assistant to then-Secretary of
    Education Bill Bennett and then as Bennett's chief of staff at ONDCP
    when Bennett became the first cabinet-level drug czar. Walters left
    ONDCP in 1993 and became a bitter critic of President Clinton's drug
    policies.

    Prior to his return as ONDCP's director, he solidified his standing in
    Republican circles as the President of the Philanthropy Roundtable, a
    far right-wing non-profit funded by the Olin, Scaife and Bradley
    Foundations and the New Citizenship Project, whose goal is to promote
    religion in public life. Thus, he is not a neo-con but more of an
    old-line Bill Bennett values maven.

    Walters is in touch with his inner kulturkampfer.

    Bennett and Walters had long sought platforms from which to force
    national discussion about character and values.

    Although the drug czar does not command any actual police forces, it
    is a cabinet-level position that is not only tasked with creating the
    national drug strategy but also has some ability to force other
    cabinet officials to participate in the strategy. Walters was a
    particularly hard critic of Clinton's drug policies, co-authoring
    blistering articles for the Heritage Foundation and the Washington
    Times accusing Clinton of "abandoning" the war on drugs.

    The articles call for a renewed war on drugs by using the presidential
    bully pulpit to get an anti-drug message out, stepped up use of the
    military for interdiction efforts, highlighting the deterrent effects
    of harsh mandatory minimum sentences, forcing source countries to
    reduce export of drugs and use of drug testing in treatment.

    As drug czar, Walters has enacted his calls for a renewed drug war by
    emphasizing drug use as a moral issue and by "pushing back" against
    perceived cultural permissiveness. He has used his bully pulpit to
    force discussion of drugs into a black/white, us-against-them
    paradigm, a paradigm to which the concept of war is already well suited.

    As a result, the major drug initiatives of the Bush administration
    have taken on a distinctly combative flavor.

    For example, in the first year following September 11, Walters
    repeatedly sought to link the drug war to the war on terrorism in
    taxpayer funded advertising and elsewhere.

    Indeed, the administration appears to view drug users as one element
    of a fifth column, a component of the axis of evil inside the U.S.

    As part of his efforts to push back against his perception of a
    countercultural message favoring drugs, Walters has worked to
    eliminate any visible manifestation of drug culture.

    Thus, there can be no relaxation of any drug law for any purpose,
    including use as medicine.

    As a result, there is a renewed effort to root out physicians who
    prescribe higher levels of opiates than some of their peers, despite
    widespread acknowledgement that the American medical establishment
    routinely undertreats pain. This may also explain the otherwise
    puzzling use of precious space in Bush's State of the Union address in
    January to discuss steroids.

    It's a visible, highly talked-about manifestation of drug-related
    culture.

    Walters has also made good on his desire to invigorate interdiction
    efforts overseas. In Colombia, the U.S. is now giving aid to help the
    government shoot down airplanes suspected of smuggling drugs.

    In 2001, this type of shoot first and ask questions later policy
    resulted in the deaths of a missionary and her daughter in Peru. Last
    year, the U.S. spent nearly $600 million in military aid in Colombia,
    including tacit endorsement of paramilitary units, despite the
    Columbian government's poor human rights record. Unfortunately,
    reporting on Colombia is almost non-existent in the wake of the war in
    Iraq.

    Similarly, Walters is intent on ending drug policy experimentation in
    the states, a decidedly non-conservative position.

    He has sought to roll back popular medical marijuana laws in the nine
    states that have passed them. He also directly opposed drug reform
    ballot initiatives in 2002 by traveling to, and directing taxpayer
    funded ads to, states where drug reform initiatives are on the ballot.

    In a similar vein, the DEA conducted raids on most of the major
    medical marijuana cooperatives in California, resulting in the arrests
    of patients suffering from cystic fibrosis, cancer and other ailments.
    Finally, this pushback really does seem to be about a fifth column in
    the culture war. Thus Tommy Chong isn't merely a paraphernalia dealer,
    he is a personification of the 70s - and think how gratifying it must
    have been to imprison the 70s.

    In the meantime, Democrats have found it hard to articulate their
    interests in drug policy and at ONDCP. Why? The framework of the "drug
    war" is a trap. If, instead of a "war" it was an "effort to minimize
    dangers from pharmaceutical, alcohol, nicotine and other psychoactive
    drugs" - if, say, we emphasized health outcomes instead of "fighting a
    war" - it is very likely that rather than building jails and prisons
    we would stress health and education.

    The U.S. now has the highest incarceration rate of documented
    prisoners in the world, outstripping even China and Russia. And nearly
    half of all those in federal prisons are serving time for drug crimes.

    In the meantime, it's been estimated that almost half of those who
    need treatment for drugs can't get it.

    How the Democrats Can Get a Handle on Drug Policy

    Democrats need to find a way to begin to step out of the trap of the
    "drug war." Although all too many Democrats are enthusiastic
    practitioners of the drug war, some are beginning to reevaluate the
    issue.

    For instance, Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) was a confirmed drug
    warrior in the 80's, but after years of his Harlem constituents being
    convicted and sentenced to hard time upstate, he has spoken out about
    overreliance on incarceration, introducing a series of bills to reduce
    sentencing disparities in crack cocaine.

    Representative Rangel's turnaround on sentencing is a good example of
    how the Democrats can begin to change the conversation. They need to
    tell the real stories of the real people affected by our drug policies.

    Kemba Smith is an African American woman who, stuck in a controlling
    relationship with her college boyfriend, ended up playing a marginal
    role in her abuser's drug crimes. Eventually, despite neither actually
    using nor selling drugs, she was convicted under conspiracy laws of
    all the crimes of his gang. Under mandatory minimum laws, she received
    24 and a half years, a longer sentence than manslaughter in many
    jurisdictions. She was eventually freed after 6 years when President
    Clinton commuted her sentence in 2000. Women, especially African
    American women, are now the fastest growing segment of the prison
    population. Like Kemba, they often play a minimal role in a conspiracy
    but have little information to bargain with authorities. African
    Americans already know Kemba's story, but white America doesn't have a
    clue. She's articulate and smart.

    It would be interesting to see her onstage at the Democratic
    convention.

    When Americans talk about drugs in the context of pain management,
    they express far more nuanced views than our current dialogue allows.

    The baby boomers are getting ready to retire just as the DEA has
    announced a war on oxycontin, vicodin and other drugs used with little
    harm by millions to control pain. Certainly they will be ready for a
    more subtle dialogue.

    For the same reason, medical marijuana garners up to 80% approval in
    some recent polls. Americans intrinsically understand its potential
    benefits as a last resort in helping people to find relief from the
    pain of cancer or other diseases.

    In addition, people convicted of drug crimes face a set of invisible
    punishments beyond prison.

    They lose access to housing and needs assistance, they are often
    forbidden from receiving licenses.

    In one state, they cannot receive a license to be a hairdresser. A
    particularly self-defeating law prevents people convicted of drug
    crimes from receiving federal grants or even loans for higher education.

    Education is the most likely indicator that an individual will not
    recidivate.

    In the meantime, parents are screaming for assistance at the community
    level. There are parents who have lost their houses and their jobs in
    the process of trying to get their kids into decent alcohol or drug
    treatment. HIV is resurgent in America, and intravenous drug users,
    their spouses and children are at particular risk. Study after study
    has shown that syringe exchange coupled with education can slow the
    transmission of HIV. Americans want to do the right thing on HIV. The
    lack of health care and the lack of substance abuse treatment
    (including the startling lack of most kinds of treatment other than
    12-step treatment) is a national disaster.

    A clear, consistent, highly prioritized message by Democrats on this
    topic could work.

    Democrats can also emphasize both the out of control costs of the
    criminal justice system and the failure to prioritize more serious
    crimes over drugs. They know that Tommy Chong is not a major threat to
    their kids and they cannot be happy that it will ultimately cost the
    government at least $18,000 to imprison him and many thousands more to
    prosecute him. Ultimately it is up to Democrats to free themselves
    from the straightjacket of John Walters' war for morality.

    As for Tommy Chong? He'll get out of prison in July.
     
  2. edgien

    edgien Silver Member

    Reputation Points:
    30
    Messages:
    28
    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    Excellent Excellent Excellent ......great information that everyone needs to know regardless and then for all to proclaim whether byvoice or pen tobe heard in whatever avenue is available. The even bigger issue at hand is simply Freedom from an Intrusive Governmentthat has lost the meaning ofa Goverment of the People and by the People. The true terroist threat is alive and welland livingamong usrather then insome far off landwhere evenour enemies are more aware ofthen we. We the People must stop living such conplacent lives thusallowing our Government to trash everything we hold sodearly, for in the endthe mightyresultwill be our verydownfall. Wemustnever forget whatPatrick Henry proclaimed"Give me Liberty or give meDeath"but we must also have thatbranded in our verysoul, Liberty is more then justhaving ahouse and twocarsbut rather Liberty is the assurance of living without fear from aGoverment thatbinds it's very peoplewith the chains ofinjustice with no means toresolve.........."to sinby silence when they should protest makes cowards of men"...A.Lincoln
     
  3. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Reputation Points:
    0
    Liberty...democracy????? american dream? I don't believe in any of these things, not in this country. My husband was on probation for posession of drug paraphernalia and some residue..got 18 months drug probation ( they wanted to give him 1 year in the county jail...but you know how they get you with the probation. plus with two small children to support and a wife that works part time, a mortgage to pay, bills, etc. Well, he violated his probation one night coming back home from his mothers house ( I had to go pick him up ) we were fighting and he jumped off of our scooter ( cause he had parked the car somewhere around his moms...anyhow, he ran into a yard with a hedge ( makes it a fence ) he left after two minutes...I wasn't going to go after him...I said " welll, go ahead...I'm not gonna chase you" so I left ( mind you..this was blocks away from our home...we own a condo about 8 blocks away...hello !!! OWN...my husband is now thirty , he was 25 when we got married...he used to live in and out of homes, on the streets..etc, he managed to buy his own home, saved up, he just got a job promotion 2 weeks before what I am about to tell......the owner of ther home followed him and called the cops, they came to my home and told me that he was in the patrol car crying , and saying that he hurt his wife.... ( he meant emotionally ) well, they said to me that it was a trespassing case, and thats a misdemeanor.well, I guess that they saw his record..and the fact that he was on probation, well, ther cops gave him an attempted burglary charge....bad felony, well, he's facing fie years in a state prison, I just hired a private attorneyand I am getting together all the documents IE: motivation.....why would he attempt robbery? he just got promoted, we refinanced our home, bought a new car,,, this has affected the lives of four people, my daughter, my son, yself....him, what kinda man gets out of prisonafter five years of really living the american dream, hard work will pay off, own your own home....have spotless credit...a wife , a kids etc...I willhave to sell my home and go on public assistance, the car was half paid off, so I have till sept 2005 to have to sell it...the kids were so excited with the nw car...well, thatsall I have to say...good bye
     
  4. P!MPJU!C3

    P!MPJU!C3 Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    17
    Messages:
    299
    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2004
    Ive but one thing 2 say:


    We live in a very very very very very very sad world.


    Its all 2 be blamed on....





    $[:(]
     
  5. wizard warior

    wizard warior Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    9
    Messages:
    114
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    thats sounds like a nightmare your experencing blondie i resally hope things wrok oput allright for you., sometimes these rule crazy officals just take things way too far and fail to realize the effect they are having on honest hard working peoples day to day lives.if more time was spent catching real criminals like terrorists and the like then things wouldsurley be muchbetter for everyone.
     
  6. Drain

    Drain Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    0
    Messages:
    10
    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2004
    Every time I read something like this is makes me sad. It's so frustrating sometimes.



    A slightly better drug policy isn't enough to get me to vote Democrat (voting libertarian :)).



    Good read though, alfa.
     
  7. Premise

    Premise Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    0
    Messages:
    36
    Joined:
    May 1, 2004
    Fantastic Post Alpha
     
  8. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,288
    Messages:
    38,278
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    TOMMY CHONG STILL HAS WHAT IT TOKES

    They came seeking comic wisdom from the King of Dope. On Saturday a
    capacity crowd crammed into Yuk Yuk's to hear Tommy Chong lay out his
    signature brand of stoner humour. Accompanied by his wife Shelby Chong, the
    66-year-old did not disappoint. Part stand-up, part Borscht Belt vaudeville
    and part THC revival meeting, Chong rocked the audience with his dry
    delivery and finely tuned writing.

    "Have you seen people today?" he asked the audience. "Marijuana shouldn't
    be decriminalized, it should be mandatory."

    Unlike previous Tommy Chong visits, Saturday's show had a political
    undertone. In 2003 Chong was arrested for selling drug paraphernalia on the
    Internet, or, as he would put it, "I was busted for selling bongs." Chong
    was sentenced to nine months in a Californian minimum-security prison. It
    was an ironic turn for the comedian, who in 1992 told me he was amazed that
    people were still "doing incredible amounts of time for possession of pot.
    It is like the Twilight Zone for me."

    The arrest has become comic fodder. Last December he appeared in the
    Marijuana-logues in New York City and the comic spent a fair portion of his
    Yuk Yuk's show detailing the experience. Decked out in a "Tommy Chong Free
    at Last" T-shirt, he turned the ordeal into a picaresque monologue.

    His prison guards asked for his autograph, his fellow prisoners wanted him
    to do lines from his movies. "When they picked me up, it was unreal. I
    thought, I'm a celebrity, they couldn't really do that, there are people
    out there who love me .. Then I realized that there are about 10 times that
    amount who really, really hate me."

    Chong is an icon of Canadian comedy. Bred in Calgary, he moved to British
    Columbia, where he teamed up with a comedian named Cheech Marin. Cheech and
    Chong were born. The pair honed their craft at Vancouver counter-culture
    venues such as the topless club Shanghai Junk. Hollywood beckoned and the
    pair went on to record six gold records and a host of successful movies,
    such as Up in Smoke. Cheech and Chong had killer timing, deceptively
    well-written material and exceptional comic rhythm. They split up in 1985,
    though rumours of a new Cheech and Chong flick still circulate. Chong is
    best known among young fans for playing "Leo the Photo Shack Guy" on That
    '70s Show.

    Chong's newest collaborator is his wife. At Yuk Yuk's they performed a
    sketch based on their everyday lives (while waiting in the car for his
    wife, Tommy finds a joint and smokes it). As the drug takes effect, he
    begins shouting, "Hurry up, we're going to be late." When Shelby turns up
    she asks him where they're going, to which Chong replies, "I don't know but
    we're going to be late for it."

    Their act was a stoner spin on the "Dumb Dora" vaudeville routines of the
    1920s and '30s (epitomized by George Burns and Gracie Allen) only in this
    instance the wife played the straight man, with Chong laying out the
    slow-witted punch lines. This variety turn was followed by dancing
    (merengue and salsa) with a lady chosen from the audience.

    The show was topped by a "big finish" worthy of vaudeville. With Tommy
    playing guitar, he and Shelby sang "Up in Smoke" and the crowd sang along.
    It was an appropriate choice. As far as comedy is concerned, Tommy Chong is
    still smoking.
     
  9. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,288
    Messages:
    38,278
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    STONER CHONG OUT OF THE JOINT & BACK IN THE '70S

    On an upcoming episode of That '70s Show, fans will see the return of Leo,
    the stoner photo-mart guy and the gang's erstwhile pot connection -- a
    character who's been missing from the show for two seasons. How do they
    explain his absence? "It's pretty funny, I just show up," says Tommy Chong,
    who plays Leo. "Eric (Topher Grace) says 'Leo, where you been?' And I just
    say, 'I don't know.' "

    As he spoke on the phone from his L.A. home, Chong was about to leave to
    shoot the scene.

    "What happens is Eric's car breaks down at the side of the road and I just
    appear out of the bushes. At the very end I'm in the basement, and Hyde
    (Danny Masterson) is there, and Hyde's the only guy I recognize.

    "It's a real easy scene, and I got such a beautiful reception from the cast
    and crew. Everybody was so happy to have me back."

    Chong's whereabouts are better known than Leo's. The Canadian-born comic,
    one-half of the platinum-selling stoner team of Cheech & Chong, was
    released in July after nine months in jail for selling personalized
    marijuana pipes on the Internet. No pot, just paraphernalia -- such is the
    Bush War on Drugs.

    So how was his time in the, um, joint? He laughs at the euphemism. "How was
    the slammer?" he says. "It was a beautiful experience. The thought of going
    in for what I did was hellish. But being unfairly imprisoned gives me
    something in common with Martin Luther King and Lenny Bruce.

    "But by and large it was a real easy experience. It was a minimum security
    camp, like a Camp Cupcake, near Bakersfield, Calif. There were Jewish gangs
    -- they controlled the library.

    "The thing is, you put a stoner comedian in any jail and you're gonna find
    a fan base. My social calendar was pretty full."

    It was a non-violent prison population, he says, "a lot of pot growers
    doing, like 20 years, 'cause they found a rifle on the farm where they were
    growing it in the country. America's gone totally wacko and has been wacko
    for a lot longer than we thought.

    "I met, like, eight doctors who were there for Medicare fraud --people
    trying to help people with America's non-existent health-care system. You
    could say they did it for profit in the sense that they were performing
    procedures that weren't covered in Medicare and billing for something else.

    "What was beautiful was that I was privy to a world you usually don't see
    unless you're a criminal. By actually being a criminal instead of a
    writer/comedian, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I got to see
    firsthand what the system is about."

    Since getting out of jail, Chong has returned to the standup stage (he did
    a stint in New York in December in the off-Broadway spoof The
    Marijuanalogues). Fans can expect the usual grab bag of old Cheech & Chong
    songs like Earache My Eye and originals -- as well as a rant or two about
    life behind bars.

    For now, he's confining his comedy to Canada. "I wouldn't chance it down
    here yet, not while I'm on probation. They put me in jail for a bong. Could
    you imagine what they would do if I started spouting my hippie logic
    onstage in the U.S.?"

    Ah, yes, probation. Chong is still drug-tested regularly and says he hasn't
    smoked pot for two years.

    A release party was postponed because, "Technically, I can't even be around
    roach clips." All bets are off in July when his probation runs out.

    "Of course," he says when asked if he'll indulge again. "I've had nothing
    but good experiences with pot -- other than the jail time."

    Skedded to shoot this spring: The much-talked-about reunion movie with
    partner Cheech Marin. Tentative title: Grumpy Old Stoners. "The plot is,
    Cheech is fired 'cause he's bald, and I invent a pot lotion that grows hair."

    And hilarity ensues -- along with a case of the munchies, we bet.
     
  10. RockGod

    RockGod Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    5
    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2005
    On tv (in the U.S.) last week there was a segment on Tommy Chong on the
    show Celebrity Justice. The interview had chong talking about his stay
    in the clink and future prodjects. He said that the talk of another
    "Cheech and Chong" movie is very true, but he didn't say when it would
    be coming out or when filming starts. Another thing he said is that
    part of his probation only alows him to do certain bits of comedy.
    Which I think is rediculous.



    Tommy Chong is a comic genious, but i have watched his movie "Far Out"
    and i still can't understand a god damned thing that is going on in
    that movie....it really is Far Out[​IMG]



    ~Peace
     
  11. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,288
    Messages:
    38,278
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    HITS FROM THE CHONG


    In the world of comedy, Tommy Chong may not be as highly regarded as Lenny Bruce or George Carlin, but like them, the former Vancouverite--who made his name as one of the dope-smoking stoners in Cheech & Chong--can lay claim to being one of the few comedic performers to have spent time in the slammer because of their acts.


    While Bruce and Carlin were arrested on obscenity charges directly related to what they said on-stage, Chong's 2003 prosecution and subsequent imprisonment in California for selling pipes and bongs over the Internet was largely the consequence of his comedy persona. U.S.


    federal prosecutors decided to make an example of the preeminent stoner of our time when his company was caught selling and shipping the drug paraphernalia to Pennsylvania.


    "Going across the state line, you create a federal offence," Chong explains from his home in Los Angeles. "Federal laws in the states can be way different than state laws. There's no state law against what kind of smoking material is being sold in certain stores....It's a commerce law, where you're making money supposedly illegally even though we're paying taxes. My company had a licence and we paid taxes.


    It wasn't drug money. But they've bastardized the laws down here to include anything that even has the word drugs around it. They can take your possessions--your house, your cars, your money, whatever you got--if you've made money so-called 'illegally'. It's just a typical weapons-of-mass-destruction mentality they got down here."


    The 66-year-old entertainer became the only one of 55 people arrested during the Drug Enforcement Administration's "Operation Pipe Dreams"


    to do time in prison. Although he wasn't thrilled at being found guilty, Chong describes the experience as "the most exciting time of my life".


    Before his retail misadventures, the Alberta native made a career out of portraying dope addicts. But things didn't start out that way.


    Chong, who once ran a strip joint in Vancouver featuring improv comedy ("We had the first and only naked improv group. It was a nice touch because it really kept your interest," he says with a laugh), met Cheech Marin here in 1969. In the beginning, the counterculture duo did very little drug-related material. After two performances at a club in Chinatown at the corner of Pender and Main, Cheech & Chong moved to L.A. to become one of the top comedy acts of their generation.


    "The pot humour came out of us opening for jazz groups," Chong recalls. "There were no comedy clubs. There were just black jazz clubs. And we got booked to open for, like, Cannonball Adderley and Carmen McRae and Bill Withers. And we found that the audience responded to our stoner bits, so we started putting them in.


    "The guy that my character's based on was a real guy....His nickname was Strawberry. He was a redheaded kid. I've met him a few times since. He morphed into a real businessman with a suit and everything.


    But [back then] he was a living-on-the-streets hippie with beautiful long red hair and just the best attitude ever. He'd bust us. We'd come off-stage and he'd say, 'Boy, that really sucked, man. No one laughed.


    Whoa!' That whole attitude just gave us the base for our stoner guy."


    That stoner guy is now out from behind bars after serving a nine-month sentence, but he's on probation until July. Which makes his upcoming appearance in The Marijuana-Logues (Friday [February 18] at the Orpheum), a druggie take on the hugely popular Vagina Monologues, somewhat brave. Chong admits to being uncertain about it all, but he passionately explains why he agreed to appear in the comedic play.


    "I was a little bit hesitant about performing while I'm on probation, but then I realized it's very unpatriotic of me to hesitate exercising free speech. I can see me not selling bongs, but being afraid to talk, even though part of the [Bush] administration would love to have that effect on me? You got people dying for freedom and liberty, and here I am huddled in my house afraid to go on-stage and talk? I just said to myself, 'Come on!' Because that's one thing that I have to do to honour people like the soldiers and that who are dying in Iraq. I have to do that."


    If you're under the impression that you need to be a pot aficionado to enjoy the show, think again. As perhaps the only Georgia Straight writer who's never tried weed, and as someone who doesn't particularly like drug humour, I've seen part of The Marijuana-Logues and found it to be unlike most other comedy aimed at dope heads. It's written and developed by standup comics Arj Barker, Doug Benson, and Tony Camin, all regulars on the American talk-show circuit, who read from notes on music stands and speak in clear, sober tones. Sample line: "I didn't always smoke pot. For years and years, Arj Barker was high on life.


    But eventually I built up a tolerance."


    Chong, who is replacing Barker on this 16-city North American tour--which begins in Vancouver--has inserted his own material rather than sticking to the original script. "I mean, I've got stuff that's been around longer than all of those guys," he jokes. Still, he agrees that this show takes a different look at the culture than his old comedy team did.


    "The thing I like about it [the script] is it has insights that I would never think about. A collegiate look at it, you know. In fact, there isn't any kind of typical stoner stuff in the monologues....[It's] funny in an intellectual-playwright sort of way."


    Thanks to the attentions of the American authorities, Tommy Chong is enjoying a renaissance. Cheech & Chong recently reunited after 20 years apart, and there's a new movie in the works. Still, the comedian claims to have learned his lesson. When asked what he'd do differently, he responds, "Well, I would never have a bong company to begin with." *


    Tommy Chong appears in The Marijuana-Logues at the Orpheum Theatre on Friday (February 18).
     
  12. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,288
    Messages:
    38,278
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    CHEECH AND I DIDN'T INHALE: CHONG


    ASPEN, COLO. - Tommy Chong says he and Cheech Marin didn't smoke pot when they were making the stoner comedies that made them famous.


    Speaking at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival -- where he and Marin reunited on stage last week for the first time in more than 20 years -- the Edmonton-born comedian said they voluntarily refrained from smoking up because being stoned in front of the cameras was counterproductive.


    According to Chong, there was only a single instance of the duo filming a scene while under the influence, which came during the making of 1978's Up in Smoke.


    "We tried one time and we wasted so much film," he told reporters.


    "We were in the car waiting for the cue, you know. And the camera's rolling and we're sitting there, you know, and neither one of us heard the cue."


    Three decades ago, Cheech and Chong carved out a niche with marijuana-themed humour on comedy albums and the big screen.


    Chong said he has no regrets about being a role model for an entire generation of tokers.


    "When you think of how many kids died drinking alcohol, I feel I've saved millions of lives," he said.


    The duo is planning a new film, which could be released as soon as this summer. It will be in the same mould as the films they made in the 1970s and 1980s.


    "We are nearly done with the script," Marin said, adding that although its spirit will be in keeping with past Cheech and Chong pictures, the new film will have an "age- and time-appropriate" feel.


    "It will be a movie about two guys who have all sorts of adventures together," a smiling Chong noted.


    The two have been kicking around possible title ideas, including Grumpy Old Stoners and Lord of the Smoke Rings.


    They had started working on the script when Chong was sentenced to nine months in jail for selling pot pipes, a stretch he finished serving in July.
     
  13. club222

    club222 Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    17
    Messages:
    365
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2005
    I would love to see a new cheech and chong movie come out. Those movies are great.
     
  14. RoboCop

    RoboCop Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    313
    Messages:
    877
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2004
    from earth
    CHONG SHOW'S TOUR CANCELED

    The national tour of "The Marijuana-Logues," starring Tommy Chong, is up in smoke. It was canceled because Chong's permit to appear in it has been revoked by his parole officer, Chong said Thursday.

    According to the terms of his parole, which followed a recent nine-month stint in prison for selling drug paraphernalia, "I can't be in places where substances are being sold or used," Chong said. That wasn't a problem in the play's first production in New York, but at a performance Saturday in Chicago, "the whole place looked like a Tommy Chong smoke-out."

    He was required to report to his parole officer that he had seen the dope use. The officer revoked his permit Tuesday.
     
  15. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,288
    Messages:
    38,278
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    CHONG'S 'MARIJUANA-LOGUES' TOUR GOES UP IN SMOKE


    Parole Officer Nixes Performances


    NEW YORK - Tommy Chong's play has gone up in smoke. "The Marijuana-Logues"


    has canceled its spring tour after its star, Tommy Chong, was barred from performing in it because audience members were frequently lighting up during the show. Chong, half of the comedy team Cheech & Chong, was in danger of violating his probation, which bars him from being around people using or selling illegal substances. He served nine months in prison last year for conspiring to sell drug paraphernalia. "The (parole) officer was compelled to revoke his ability to continue on the shows," said Phil Lobel, a publicist for the play. "The last thing he wants to do is go back to prison."


    "The Marijuana-Logues" was on the second night of a North America tour. It has played for nearly a year off-Broadway. Chong had a special two-week run in New York and then went on the road with the show. Following a kickoff performance Feb. 18 in Vancouver, British Columbia, a Seattle show the following day was especially smoky.


    Lobel said the large 1,000-2,000 seat theaters were much more difficult to patrol than the small Actors' Playhouse in New York.


    The play expects to resume touring this summer, when Chong's parole ends.


    The 65-year-old comedian served nine months in prison, beginning in 2003, after pleading guilty to conspiring to sell drug paraphernalia. His home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., was raided by police looking for smoking materials made by Nice Dreams, a company named for one of the Cheech and Chong movies.


    Though the police found nearly a pound of marijuana, Chong was never charged with marijuana possession because the drug was not included in the search warrant. Chong was released from prison in July.


    "The Marijuana-Logues," a parody of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues,"


    is a three-man show that addresses the rites and rituals of getting stoned.


    "I'm still on probation you know," Chong told The Associated Press before the Vancouver performance. "Doing a show about weed in the United States - when you just got out of jail for selling weed paraphernalia - makes me a little nervous."


    Tickets already purchased for canceled "Marijuana-Logues" shows can be refunded at the point of purchase.
     
  16. bubaloo

    bubaloo Silver Member

    Reputation Points:
    15
    Messages:
    141
    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2005
    just watched up in smoke the other day, what a classic. 9 months for selling bongs. Grimma.
     
  17. billbong

    billbong Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    0
    Messages:
    123
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2005
    The Pleasant Probation of Tommy Chong

    By Dave Shulman, LA Weekly. Posted March 8, 2005.

    The comedian talks about going to jail for selling bongs, the devolution of Dennis Miller, why life is better straight, and other pinko commie leftist lunatic things.

    Tommy Chong never was much of a stoner, but one of his most popular characters ("Man") was. So when Tommy's son Paris put Man's face on the surfaces of seditiously shaped blown glass (bongs, pipes) and was blatantly entrapped into sending 5,000 bucks' worth across state lines to undercover feds, Ashcroft's Justice Department took the opportunity to send Tommy to the Wackenhut-managed Taft Correctional Institution for nine magical months, to punish him not only for financing and promoting his son's glass-blowing studio but for, as the federal prosecutor put it, "glamorizing the illegal distribution and use of marijuana" in entertainment products that "trivialize law-enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking and use."

    At the time – two years ago – it might've seemed to anyone watching the ensuing "mission accomplished"-style press conference that Ashcroft was, well, confused. By bringing up Chong's so-called glamorizings and trivializings as aggravating factors, the Justice Department appeared unable to distinguish creator from creation, portrayal from endorsement. The result was that, of the 55 people similarly Ashcrofted all over America in "Operation Pipe Dreams" (yes, that was the sting's actual name), only one was incarcerated: Tommy Chong.

    Let's apply the Justice Department's rule to lesser crimes against humanity: If, for example, Harvey Keitel and 54 others get pulled over for driving 75 in a 65 on the 405, shall justice be served by sending home the 54 others with speeding tickets but sending Keitel to the slammer, because he played Sport in Taxi Driver, Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs and Judas Iscariot in The Last Temptation of Christ?

    "All they knew," Chong says, "was that my popularity commanded their attention. They couldn't give a shit if it was the stoner character that they put in jail, or me. It was all the same to them. They just wanted to show the entertainment world that we're vulnerable. 'You do something that we don't like, you're going to end up in jail.' That's the message they put out.

    "I call this the Tsunami Government. This government is just like the tsunami. It's coming in, it's going to wreak havoc and desolation, and then it'll go out. It'll disappear. So we just have to live through it."

    Chong and I are lounging on a Starbucks patio at the far west end of Sunset Boulevard, just down the hill from his house in Pacific Palisades, ingesting government-approved mind-bending caffeine cocktails. Not long after his release from prison, Chong accepted an offer to perform in The Marijuana-Logues, an off-Broadway stage production written by Arj Barker, Doug Benson and Tony Camin and directed by Jim Millan. He spent much of this past winter doing eight shows a week at New York's Actors Playhouse, until Ideal Entertainment Group and Magic Arts & Entertainment picked up the show and sent it out on a North American tour that includes two shows at the Wilshire Theater this Saturday night. [Editor's Note: The Marijuana-Logues tour has been cancelled, and Chong barred from performing the play, until his parole is up this summer.]

    "When I was doing the show in New York," says Chong, "every day I'd walk to the theater, and I'd be walking on air, because I'm going to do a play! I loved it. Loved it! Any excuse to live in New York and do art. Has to be one of the most rewarding experiences in the world."

    Chong's long career began in 1938 in Edmonton, Alberta, where he commanded the attention of his parents by shitting his diapers, dribbling and crying for milk. After World War II, the family moved down to a town called Dog Patch, on the outskirts of Calgary, so that his father, who'd been wounded in the war, could be close to a veterans hospital. In Dog Patch, Tommy learned at a very young age that he didn't want to live in Dog Patch, so he quit school, became a musician, moved to Vancouver, co-wrote a minor Motown hit with Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, started a comedy troupe called City Works, met Cheech Marin and formed Cheech & Chong. Cheech & Chong performed sketch comedy all over North America, moved to Los Angeles, and put together a wildly popular series of comedy albums and high-grossing movies.

    Now 66 years old, Tommy Chong radiates the temperament of a warm and articulate monk. We talk about jazz, we talk about comedy. I mention a recent show at the Universal Amphitheater, a duel between Bill Maher and Dennis Miller.

    "Mmm!" Chong says through his sandwich. "Dnna-Mnna!"

    "What – were you there?"

    "No. I was just on his show."

    So we analyze the (de-)evolution of Dennis Miller. Chong's theory: "Dennis Miller morphed into what he really was, which is a trend-seeker. When he was younger, he kept looking for his niche. And when he found out that he could agree with Bush and Ashcroft with no problem, he found it.

    "And he looks at Bill O'Reilly, and he looks at Rush Limbaugh, and he doesn't care. I mean, he's like an actor. He's looking for conflict, you know? The funny thing is, Dennis Miller got me back into comedy."

    "How so?"

    "We were at the same club in Vancouver on New Year's Eve, 1991. Dennis Miller and I, sitting together. He's a very quiet guy. He was very respectful of who I was. Almost in awe, you know ... Tommy Chong! And I say, 'What are you up to later, later on in the week? Let's hook up!' And he says, 'Well, I gotta do this little gig.' He was doing these little comedy clubs, for spending money. So I went to the show. And before the show I went backstage to the little dressing room, and he's back there pacing back and forth.

    "He said, 'Do you still get nervous before you go on?' And I looked at him, and I kind of cracked up, because I hadn't been onstage for a long, long time. But I said, 'Yeah, I guess I do' – you know, just going along with him. Then I sat in the audience, and he comes out and starts doing pot jokes! Didn't go over with his audience, so he recovers with, 'What am I doing? Tommy Chong's here, and I'm doing pot jokes? Am I crazy?' You know, that kind of thing.

    "Anyway, that night in the club, I looked around and I got caught up in it again, and I thought, 'I'm gonna do this.' So then I went back to L.A. and started, at the little comedy clubs around town. Didn't see Dennis Miller again for 10 years, and then I'm on his show. You should look at the show, it's pretty funny. He's got this little pseudo-Crossfire kind of panel going with these so-called left-wing writers or whatever, and he's trying to get a little [conflict] thing going with his right-wing Nazi attitude. He's telling the writers, 'Didn't the Iraqi election put a smile on your face? I mean, you've got to admit that that's pretty nice, seeing America spreading freedom like that.'

    "So when I got out there, I said, 'I just want to tell you, Dennis. You know, it's nice that the Iraqis can vote, because I can't. You know why? Because your buddies put me in jail for selling bongs, and now I can't vote because I'm a felon. Thanks a lot, man.' And he says something like, 'Oh, yeah. I heard you were ... uh ... – you know, faking like he didn't hear about it. And then I got around to New Year's Eve in Vancouver in '91, and he's kind of, 'Uh ... oh ... I don't really remember.' And I said, 'Well, you were really stoned, so you probably ..., and he really freaked. Says, 'I'm not a bud man! I wasn't stoned!'

    "But I understand him. He's a jockey, and the horse he was riding kept coming up second, so he changed horses. And now, with this sucker – he thinks it's gonna win, but it's gonna come in dead last."

    "It's like watching someone who's wearing a bad toupee, and they think no one can tell."

    "Exactly."

    One of the requirements of Tommy Chong's probation is regular drug testing. "Every time I get tested, I ask questions about it, and I watch how they do it. They try to fake you out. The test results'll be coming in, and they'll give you that look, you know? Like, 'Oh ... mm-hm ... oh ... sure is taking a lo-o-ong time to come up. You sure you haven't been doing drugs?' And I can just see some poor stoner going [does frantically guilty Man voice], 'OK! OK! I did! I did!'

    "And the other thing they do is, they look at it to see if there's excess water in your urine, because people can flush their systems out. You just drink a ton of water and the tests come out fine. So now if they decide there's too much water in your urine, they can fail you."

    It's been over two years now since Chong has smoked pot.

    "I'm as clean as a whistle," he says. "I never did smoke that much pot; never was a big pothead. I was more of a weightlifter. Maybe once in a while, you know, after a hard day of shooting or something like that, I'd kick back. But you can't exercise and be high. It's impossible. You can't do a lot of things when you're high. Like, you can't shoot a movie. You can't be an actor in a movie. I know, because I tried all sorts of ways of being in character, and the best way is to be totally straight. The best way in life is to be totally straight. Because the body has incredible combinations of chemicals that will react just on sight, taste, touch – just on your senses.

    "That's why people that have an education, you know, that's why they spend time in art museums, or reading good literature or listening to good music. Because it affects the body's chemistry in such a way that it produces a very mellow high that you can never reproduce with any kind of drugs. You can't even come close to that. Maybe heroin, maybe, is the closest. And this is what you learn as you live. But on the other hand, pot is the best recreational substance for teenagers, athletes, people who have naturally high adrenaline. Because the pot takes the edge off the adrenaline, and it also clears your mind of it, and then you can see things a lot clearer."

    Chong has a phone interview scheduled with someone named Debbie from something called Pollstar, so we head back up the hill, talking about high-mileage vehicles and biodiesel and the education system and being nice to people we've never met and other pinko commie leftist lunatic things.


    Back at Chong's house, I'm unwinding on a couch in front of the coffee table, writing a letter of apology to the squirrel I mercy-killed the day before. Chong, meanwhile, sits, then stands, then wanders around the house and repeats the process as he pours himself into that phone interview with Debbie of Pollstar.

    "Yeah! Oh, yeah! It was great! We sold out every night!"

    The house Tommy shares with comedian Shelby Chong, his wife and partner for the last 30-plus years, is pretty fucking wonderful. It's been my experience that pads of the wealthy and well-known aren't very instantly comfortable, but this one is. Lounging on a comfy couch in a bright and friendly foyer with a wonderful view of lush green gardens out back and a huge skylight directly above ... I'm not used to working this hard this early. So thank you, Debbie of Pollstar, for asking all the things I was going to ask after I'd had more coffee.

    "Are you familiar with the I Ching?" Chong asks Debbie. "OK, I threw the I Ching while I was in prison, and the first thing the I Ching told me to do was get off this 'the injustice of it all' kick. And the second thing it told me was, You're going to have a reunion, and it's gonna be great. So everything was good after that. I couldn't be bitter, because of all the years that I've been, you know, doin' the talk, what it came down to was that I had to do the walk.

    "Well, here I'm talking about a substance that's put people in jail for 20, 30 years. In some cases, life. Just recently up in Utah, some guy got 55 years for selling an ounce of pot to an undercover agent.

    "Hello? You there? Hello?

    "Aw, we got cut off," Chong tells me. "Shit. I hate it when I'm talking to an empty phone. Especially when it's that good shit, you know?"

    "That's why I'm recording it. Want me to play it into the phone when she calls back?"

    The phone rings, but not the one in Chong's hand. Dead battery. Phones throughout the house continue to ring. Chong rushes toward them, but by the time he reaches one, they've stopped. So he finds Debbie's number, sits, sighs and calls back. "This is the last one," he tells me, gesturing triumphantly with the handset.

    "The last phone?"

    "The last phone interview. Hello? Hi, Debbie. No, it was mine. The battery ran out. Yeah. No, you have to be nice to the phones. Can't cuss 'em out. If you cuss 'em out they'll stop working on you. Same as your computer. You cuss out your computer, it'll just freeze on you.

    "So ... where did we stop?

    "Yeah. So it was easy to be a 'pot comedian' in the Nixon or Clinton era – not so much Reagan. You know, I left the country when Reagan got in; I went to France. And when George Bush Jr. got in, my instincts told me it was time to go – I'd felt that we had grown above that, you know? But when it came down [Bush again], it was like, 'Oh, well I guess we haven't.' But I owe it to the culture. I can't run this time. I owe it to the culture to stay, and use whatever they throw at me, and use it like you do karate: Use that energy and turn it around. And that's what I've done.

    "Yes. Very much so.

    "Well, there you go. Unfortunately, the American justice system is just riddled with lies and inconsistencies. Yeah. It's very, very inconsistent in that way. It's hip to have slaves, then it's not hip to have slaves, then it's hip to have slaves again. They call them 'migrant workers.' Or 'kids,' or 'teenagers.' Yeah. But you know, in this country it's all about the vote. And these people are whores for the vote. They'll do anything they can, say anything they can, to get that vote. To get the power, which means money. But in the long run, what we learn, over and over and over again, is that if it's built on lies it'll crumble. Basically.

    "Well, see, what happened with Cheech, Cheech has an education. He's very bright, and he got tired of being typecast as 'the stupid Mexican.' And so he wanted to show everybody, including Mexicans, that there was a brain in there. And I don't blame him. I respect him for it. He never wanted to break up the act, he just wanted the freedom to go do his own stuff.

    "It's inevitable.

    "No. When I get off probation, that's it. That's it. Because by then I'll be into That '70s Show, I'll be into the movie, I'll be into all sorts of stuff. We're lookin' at a tour, doing some new music. Plus, my wife and I, we've still got our act, which we performed two weeks ago in Toronto. We're taking that act, and we're gonna make a TV show out of it.

    "Thanks.

    "OK, Debbie. Bye-bye."

    Chong hangs up, raises his arms and makes with a high-pitched "Whoo!" followed by a big grin, a delighted sigh of "That's it!" and a small "Yaaaaayyy!"

    "That's it for the day?" I ask.

    "Three-thirty I got a radio thing, then I gotta get into my movie." There's also, of course, the matter of the video interview – any minute now, as soon as Francis, Josh and Rob, the guys from the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation, arrive. More coffee now or never.

    "Hey," I say. "Is there still coffee left from before? And if so ... and can I stay for dinner and move in?"

    Chong heads for the kitchen. I can't decide which is less polite: sitting and waiting on my kind host while he labors over the coffee paraphernalia, or wandering back uninvited into his kitchen to offer to help. I wander.

    "Anything I can do?"

    "That's OK, man. I'll make you coffee." He's toweling out the bottom half of a stovetop espresso pot. "I like to make coffee." He spoons out some fine-ass ebony dust into the carrier, screws the top on and brings the fire up on the stove. And we just hang out in the kitchen while the stuff cooks.

    The Chong kitchen is just about the nicest, friendliest kitchen you'd ever want, filled with all sorts of old-fashioned God-stifling paraphernalia: a pepper mill (that could easily be used to conceal an ounce or more of cocaine); pots and pans (for cooking up batches of methedrine with intent to sell); candles (that could be used to cook heroin or light joints); even a sink with running water (could be used to drown a puppy) (or a squirrel). It's hard to imagine this place on that morning, exactly two years ago, at 5:30 a.m., when DEA agents with helicopters, news cameras, visors, flak jackets, automatic weapons and Fox News trucks went rushing around, kicking in doors, yelling, "Clear! Clear!"

    "You know," says Chong, "I really enjoyed my time in Taft. We were in the middle of a wildlife preserve. Right in the middle. And it preserved tarantulas – you know, the big hairy ones – and snakes. Lotta snakes." He also made 60 cents a day to sweep up, clean things. And did some gardening. And meditation. And sweat lodges.

    "How much longer's your probation?"

    "Until July. Most of the rest of my probation time will be spent on the road. It's perfect. It'll keep me out of trouble, you know?" Chong will be touring with The Marijuana-Logues through mid-May, after which he'll get back to work writing the screenplay for a reunion movie with Cheech, with whom he recently performed, for the first time in 20 years, at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen.

    Back in the foyer, the MPPF guys are setting up for Chong's next interview, this one with a video camera. So Chong heads back, and I top off my lovely ceramic mug of thick brown drugs and soon follow.

    As I settle back down in the comfortable couch, Shelby's heading out the door. Says a quick hello to everyone and a warm, quick goodbye to Tommy, and leaves.

    "That's the reason why I'm anybody," Chong sighs, smiling a Man smile, still intoxicated, 30 years later, by his wife. "She's the brains behind the operation. Whenever I don't do what she says, I end up in jail."

    "So you've done everything she's said except for once."

    "Yeah," Chong laughs. "Oh, she's great."

    Dave Shulman is a columnist for LA Weekly.
     
  18. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    28
    Messages:
    113
    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2004
    from Canada
    <H3>Chong says he was targeted for his hippie persona</H3>

    < = =text/>
    var byString = "";
    var sourceString = "CTV.ca News Staff";
    if ((sourceString != "") && (byString != "")) {
    document.write(byString + ", ");
    } else {
    document.write(byString);
    }

    CTV.ca News Staff
    September 8, 2005 12:29 PM ET


    Edmonton-born Tommy Chong rose to fame in the 1970s as one half of the dope-smoking comedy duo Cheech and Chong.


    In 2003, Chong was charged in the United States with conspiring to sell drug paraphernalia and sentenced to prison, what he now calls an assault on his civil liberties.


    The 67-year-old claims it was his hippie persona as an actor, which led to his crucifixion by an over-zealous U.S. government looking for a scapegoat.


    Chong's arrest and nine-month prison stint is now the focus of a documentary titled a/k/a Tommy Chong, which debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.


    Directed by Josh Gilbert, it asks tough questions about the judicial priorities of the U.S. government in its relentless crusade against marijuana and its users.


    According to the documentary's website, Chong was "crucified" for this "stoner" persona that he embodied on screen.


    Born in Edmonton, Chong teamed up with Cheech Marin in Vancouver, where they honed their comedic personas as perpetually stoned hippies in improvisational theatre. Their brand of humour won them many fans from the drug counterculture.


    In early 2003, Chong was charged for selling glass water pipes, also known as bongs, and other drug paraphernalia over the Internet.


    He pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell drug paraphernalia on behalf of Nice Dreams Enterprises, which did business under the name Chong Glass.


    His plea came after federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents bought the paraphernalia and had the items shipped to an undercover business in Beaver Falls, northwest of Pittsburgh.


    Agents also confiscated "thousands of marijuana bongs and pipes" in a raid of the Gardena, Calif., business.


    At the Taft Correctional Facility in California, Chong was careful to dance a fine line as he tried to stay out of trouble.


    "The thing is, I've been around guys that have been in jail before," he said, appearing on CTV's Canada AM, dressed in a button-down blue shirt, his beard and moustache neatly trimmed.


    "So I knew the trick about when you're in jail, you got to act crazy and then people will leave you alone," he said.


    Chong's plan of attack? To keep dangerous prisoners at bay by performing what he calls the "tango walk" -- a cross between a saunter and the ballroom dance.


    His plan appeared to pay off.


    "I was doing a tango walk ... and all the bikers were laughing at me one day ... and one of the bikers goes 'Hey, Chong, I'll dance with you,'" he said.


    "So I walked over and started dancing with him."


    After he was released from prison, Chong said he pleaded guilty to keep his son Paris from going to jail.


    "It was really hard to fight the case because my face was on all the bongs. It was very hard to say it wasn't me. It was called Chong Bongs," he said.


    Chong was the only person of the 55 arrested during the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's "Operation Pipe Dreams" to serve time in prison.


    In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors cited Chong's movies as "glamorizing the illegal use and distribution of marijuana and trivializing law-enforcement efforts to combat drug use."
     
  19. mopsie

    mopsie Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    260
    Messages:
    1,103
    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2005
    from Brazil
    chon and bong wars

    Tommy Chong became famous for adolescent humor about the smoking of marijuana, which made him a folk hero to teenagers for whom smoking something other than cigarettes was considered a rite of liberation.

    Tommy Chong became famous for adolescent humor about the smoking of marijuana, which made him a folk hero to teenagers forwhomsmoking something other than cigarettes was considered a rite of liberation.

    Chong was a lightweight version of Lenny Bruce and one of the brigade of comedians who cut the throat of propriety, then buttered their bread with the knife. In retrospect, he is a minor figure who rose to fame in the 1970s but remains a symbol of what resulted from the 1960s. Those years brought us the civil-rights movement and the disorder of Woodstock.

    But when Chong was targeted by the Justice Department during John Ashcroft's reign for the sale of bongs, or drug paraphernalia, Chong became important because of the extent to which federal agents dogged him, spending $12 million by the time the trial was over in 2003 - and Chong was behind bars serving a sentence of nine months.

    Josh Gilbert's "a/k/a Tommy Chong" is an important film that will be shown in 300 venues this summer. Gilbert makes a strong case for the comedian as a victim of entrapment by Drug Enforcement Administration agents who were assigned by Ashcroft to continue the decimation of the Woodstock Generation.

    Of course, there is a lot of talk that implies that the American government has become as vicious or as ruthless as that of either Russia or China.

    Whenever a war starts, there is an argument that security measures have to put some of the Constitution in the deep freezer during the conflict but, when the smoke clears, all will be back in order.

    Plenty of historical evidence proves that individual rights have been returned after a war has been won or lost. But Chong's case has an absurd ring to it because of the way that the consumption of drugs was unconvincingly connected to the forces of terror.

    I say this as one who has long felt that all drugs should be legalized. The production should be taken over by pharmaceutical companies - and the billion-dollar illegal trade destroyed the way bootlegging was turned into a hill of dust when Prohibition was repealed. That, of course, was 13 years after Prohibition had managed to provide organized crime with enough capital to establish itself as a dark power in our society.

    Chong was already wealthy from his films, his albums, his stand-up comedy acts and his bong business when Mary Beth Buchanan became the iron mistress of the Justice Department. She was put in charge of a project called "Operation Pipe Dreams." The unit set its sights on bringing down Chong - and it did.

    As far as a viewer can tell, Chong was the victim of entrapment, which makes his case a very serious one, especially since guarding against the abuse of power is one of the central tenets of our Constitution.

    Chong's life was much more interesting than one would have expected, and he comes off as a beguilingmanin his middle 60s who did not break the law until DEA agents tricked him into doing so. When they moved on Chong's bong factory, the gear and the ominous black clothes of the arresting officers gave the appearance of what our resident liberal leftists love to call "fascist."

    In all, "a/k/a Tommy Chong" is well worth a viewing. You might come away believing, as I do, that we can only free ourselves of the illegal-drug business by taking the profit out of it. Another reason I liked the movie is that I never thought much of Ashcroft, who is paddled at every opportunity.

    After all, our former attorney general admired Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson. Those men were traitors bent on destroying the United States. Some might say that Ashcroft did his level best to continue their mission.

    Copyright: 2006 New York Daily News
     
  20. old hippie 56

    old hippie 56 Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    1,616
    Messages:
    2,237
    Joined:
    May 10, 2005
    Thanks for the info, found out a lot of stuff on Chong I didn't know. Hope to get a chance to see the movie.