Tommy Chong Gets The Joint 

Tommy Chong Gets The Joint 
Posted by CN Staff on September 14, 2003 at 11:39:22 PT
By Dennis Roddy
Source: Post-Gazette 
Thirty years ago, Cheech and Chong did a skit in which an unctuous lawyer and his dope-addled client comically plead for leniency but end up proving the defendant is guilty.Did this memory flash back upon Tommy Chong last week as he stood before a federal judge for selling bongs? "The whole time," Chong said. Then, he stepped off the elevator at the federal courthouse and assumed his newest role: street mime.
Chong answered every reporter's question by pretending to zipper his mouth shut. Chong didn't even dare autograph a copy of "Up in Smoke" for a fan who awaited him on Grant Street. Best not to further provoke the authorities."He's being sentenced for making jokes," Chong's wife, Shelby, complained. There is something to that argument. Chong is 65 years old and, in a large sense, U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab sentenced a passe world view to prison.Years after it was fashionable, Chong's persona was still wrapped up in the dope-smoking loser, zagging down the L.A. freeway in a derelict van. Where Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman were the political face of the '60s and '70s, Cheech and Chong were the indefensibly amusing embodiment of its libertarianism.Once the act broke up, Chong's old partner, Cheech Marin, played a cop on "Nash Bridges." Tommy Chong started a glass company that sold bongs with his face on them.After his guilty plea in May, Chong joked with reporters about how the case could make a good movie. Neither Schwab nor the U.S. attorney's office grasped the irony. Chong became the first defendant in Operation Pipe Dreams -- every battle in the culture war needs a good title -- to get jail time.Dope dealers who are heroes, police officers made to look like clueless martinets, and teenagers lost in a chemical amusement that somehow lets them see past the hypocrisy of their elders, all were the stuff of Tommy Chong's comedy. He was a performer, but did the job so well that when the time came for Chong to convince a judge he wasn't the character he portrayed, he had already typecast himself into a jail sentence."It's never been my intention to break the law. I got carried away," Chong told the judge. "I got carried away with my character. I did become that character for a while, but not anymore."As proof, Chong cited, among other things, the fact that he no longer smokes dope, plans to work to keep youth off drugs and has learned salsa dancing."It's a Latin American dance. It's awesome," he told Schwab, who then assigned Chong a spot in the next conga line to Lompoc.It is hard to know which is the greater harbinger of the end times here: that the drug laws have, at retirement age, finally nabbed Tommy Chong or that Tommy Chong has responded by joining the other side."He has remorse and respect for the law," said Mike Nasatir, one of three lawyers who sat with him at the defense table. This is painful. Tommy Chong's entire stage persona was predicated on blithe disregard for law. It is what made him wonderful to kids locked in schools and chafing under the regime of authorities who piously invoked rules as an excuse for not thinking.Federal authorities who winked at the bong trade for decades could have sent agents, or even certified letters, warning they would no longer ignore the matter. Many would have shut down.Instead, a federal task force mail-ordered some product and, voila, Tommy Chong became a celebrity centerpiece pleading for mercy and promising that he is no longer himself.The meaning of Chong's celebrity did not escape prosecutors. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary McKeen Houghton invoked the "Up in Smoke" movies (the ads back then said "See this movie stoned!") and how they trivialized drug use."These films will be with us forever and children will rent these films forever," she told Schwab.Yes, the movies will be with us forever. But Tommy Chong, at least as we know him, died on the floor of Courtroom 3 Thursday morning. What exited was a beaten old man, forced to renounce himself to save the little bit that was left after the party ended.Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)Author: Dennis RoddyPublished: Saturday, September 13, 2003Copyright: 2003 PG PublishingContact: letters post-gazette.comWebsite: Articles:Ashcroft's Errant Hammer Cracks Down on Tommy Chong Chong Gets Nine Months
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Comment #8 posted by E_Johnson on September 16, 2003 at 10:52:15 PT
Here's my official complaint
Dear ACLU of Pennsylvania,I would like to file a complaint regarding the remarks made by AUSA Karen Houghton during the sentencing for marijuana paraphernalia sales of actor Tommy Chong in federal court in Pittburgh last week.AUSA Houghton argued during this hearing that because Mr. Chong once made films glamorizing marijuana use, and "his films are still available", that Mr. Chong should receive prison time instead of community service in return for his guilty plea.I am deeply alarmed that AUSA Houghton considers the continued availability of constitutionally protected films a criminal matter.I am hoping that the Pennsylvania ACLU will find some way to instruct AUSA Houghton on the value of free expression in America and deter her from her chosen path of attaching increased time in prison to marijuana defendants who happen to be politically or artistically active.Her decision to demand prison time for Mr. Chong because "his films are still available" is one that strikes at the core of freedom of expression in this country.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on September 16, 2003 at 07:50:14 PT
I don't know how to get in touch with him. If you or anyone finds out please post the information for everyone. His web sites have been forfeited so they can't help us unfortunately.
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Comment #6 posted by Treeanna on September 16, 2003 at 07:45:45 PT
Support for Mr. Chong
Is anyone able to get the address where he can get mail? I am sure he would like to get letters, etc to make his time go by faster :(
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Comment #5 posted by rchandar on September 15, 2003 at 19:52:07 PT:
tommy chong's sentence
this sentence is a disgusting example of bulls#%t moralization of contemporary society.what a backward, insensitive and stupid legal system we are apparently required to live i'm going out to get the entire library of "cheech & chong". then i'll buy an er, water pipe.                --rchandar
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Comment #4 posted by E_Johnson on September 15, 2003 at 07:06:12 PT
This is a very slippery slope
I think I am going to communicate with the Pittsburgh chapter of the ACLU about this matter,Think of everyone who gets arrested for pot every year -- over 700,000 per year. Is it acceptable that those of the 700,000+ who are artists or political activists or even JOURNALISTS should be given maximum penalties while those who keep their mouths shut or disavow will get off lightly?Maybe a prosecutor might think that is acceptable, but how can the Bill of Rights allow the American criminal system to systematically single people out for extra punishment for having engaged in constitutionally protected political and cultural activity?When seen in the large, this policy of Schwab and Houghton attaches a giant political and cultural filter to the entire American criminal system, so that those with objectionable marijuana politics are held back.That cannot be legal. If people think it is legal now then I want to try to persuade the ACLU to get involved in this case somehow.
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Comment #3 posted by estey on September 14, 2003 at 21:35:35 PT
From google (search for arthur j schwab pa):Arthur J Schwab 
3000 Old Orchard Ct Gibsonia, PA 15044 
Phone: (724) 625-2747This is his home address. Here is his "work" address:Arthur J Schwab 
301 Grant St Pittsburgh, PA 15219 
Phone: (412) 562-1438
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Comment #2 posted by ron on September 14, 2003 at 20:24:52 PT
good comment ej
tommy's motives for cooperating with AUTHORITY by pleading guilty are not the issue here...  who among us can judge individual attempts to rationalize the obscene absurdities of this cruel, insane drug war...what presstitutes need to realize if they aspire to true journalism is this: we're tired of their blithe acceptance of this absurdity... every article they write after a cozy "candid" chat with AUTHORITY, regurgitating the gateway/terror/retard/mad driver bogeyman makes more and more of us ask, "Have they ever EVEN heard of Harry Anslinger?" 
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Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on September 14, 2003 at 18:28:57 PT
Cover your a** Mr. Roddy
Dear editors,Writers are supposed to care about words. Writers at times care too much about their own words, as witnessed by Dennis Roddy's glib attempt at bringing a timely perspective to the personal tragedy of Tommy Chong.Yet even glibness, as morally repugnant as it is in the face of a human being locked in a steel cage for no good reason, is protected by the First AmenmentRemember the First Amendment? It's that thing journalists wrap themselves in every time their objectivity or competence is questioned.Yet the First Amendment is also supposed to protect Tommy Chong. Tommy Chong was convicted of selling bongs, but in the court room, Assistant US Attorney Karen Houghton admitted that he was being locked in a steel cage for his films.Here's a question for Dennis Roddy:Are Chong's films protected by the First Amendment, and, if so, then how could they be used as evidence by the AUSA to argue that he deserved prison instead of community service?Remember Mr. Roddy -- that's the very same First Amendment that you as a journalist need to cover your own ass with.Maybe one day you'll reach for it again, and find your ass as naked and defenseless as Tommy Chong's ass was in that court room.
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