Tommy Chong Will Be Free in Prison

  Tommy Chong Will Be Free in Prison

Posted by CN Staff on September 18, 2003 at 16:29:34 PT
By Debra McCorkle, AlterNet 
Source: AlterNet 

I feel genuine shock and sorrow upon the news that Tommy Chong is going to prison for nine months. At the same time I am joyful. For one thing, the only other prominent American who up till now is serving a newsworthy jail term for a paraphernalia conviction is Chris Hill, who was such an outspoken Young Republican that it was hard to garner much sympathy for him even within the tobacco accessories industry. There was always a bit of schadenfreude whenever Hill's fourteen month stint at the Eglin prison facility was mentioned. Tommy Chong is a different story. 
I enjoyed Cheech and Chong as I was growing up in the seventies and still own one of those gatefold album-sized Big Bambu rolling papers. I was no stoner (but counted many among my friends) and found the comedy duo's routine fun although silly. But, like the late humorist Lenny Bruce, they shocked and broke new ground in comedy. It became not only acceptable but fashionable to joke about marijuana and its many effects not only on college campuses but in Las Vegas and beyond. Cheech and Chong proclaimed that the world was full of pot smoking fools and we were free to recognize our own spacey smoky dumbassedness and not be ashamed. When Tommy Chong re-appeared in the television series That Seventies Show and in the marijuana classic Half-Baked, it was a triumphant return. He neither glorified the druggy life or condemned it; it was simply the endearing role of a character which he had always played, like the perpetually drunk Otis in the Andy Griffith Show a generation ago. Chong continued to use the character and his personal belief in the goodness of marijuana when he lent his name to a glass pipe company as well as a drug detox product. Both Nice Dreams Enterprises (operating as Chong Glass) and Tommy Chong's Urine Luck were successful tax-paying companies. Both advertised openly in consumer magazines like High Times and in industry publications such as HeadQuest (which has since the paraphernalia crackdown turned its attention and advertising toward the tattoo and body piercing business). Like dozens of other glass companies, Chong Glass operated as an above-board corporation and Tommy Chong must have thought that he was free to do so. When Operations Pipe Dreams and Headhunter swooped down from the DEA at outrageous taxpayer expense last winter, 55 of the more prominent paraphernalia company owners were arrested and Chong was not spared. Months of speculation followed among the storekeepers and wholesalers followed. Many waited for the sentences to be handed down before marking down their wares and getting out of the pipe business altogether. Some went ahead and closed voluntarily. Some were confident that, because the government had targeted the wealthier of the glass dealers, there would be money and topnotch lawyers to fight the good fight. The details of Tommy Chong's court date were all over the Internet by September 12th, the day after his sentencing. Guilty. Nine months‚ imprisonment, a $20K fine, and $100K in forfeited assets. Chong's attorney Richard Hirsch had offered the court a deal for leniency: Chong would repudiate his involvement with marijuana and the bong industry and promised to spend his probation making appearances speaking against drug use. The judge said no dice. Thank you, Judge Schwab. Because of the court's refusal to accept this devil's bargain to turn Tommy Chong into another horrible Just Say No advertising shill for the Partnership for a Drug Free America, Chong is a free man. For the mere price of nine months in jail, he can spend the rest of his life as a hero for libertarian ideals. He doesn't have to kiss John Ashcroft's ass. He doesn't have to be a liar and a hypocrite. Like those who went to jail and endured the blacklist during the McCarthy Era, Chong can maintain his integrity in these increasingly right-wing Big Brother times. He can use this imprisonment to publicize the punishment inflicted by our government for a non-violent crime which has harmed no one. Henry David Thoreau said that those who are in prison are in essence the most free. Face the future with grace and courage, Tommy. Your jail sentence will only add to the authenticity of the beloved character you have delighted us with for decades. The youth of America are depending on you to tell the truth about marijuana. Do the right thing for all of us. URL: AlterNetAuthor:  Debra McCorkle, AlterNetPublished: September 16, 2003Copyright: 2003 Independent Media InstituteContact: info Website: Articles:Weed Watch: Smoke Glass, Not Grass? Chong Gets The Joint's Errant Hammer Cracks Down on Tommy Chong 

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Comment #14 posted by DM on September 21, 2003 at 06:09:45 PT
for E_Johnson
I appreciate Johnson's comments about my article. However, the fact that I was not a pot smoker when I was a teenager should not be held against me. In addition, if Johnson knew anything about me, he/she would not say that I look down on stoners. In fact, I have written more about paraphernalia issues and marijuana decriminalization than any other single subject. I regularly write and petition my representatives over pot issues. As far as the Chong/Otis link, I was referring to Chong's characterizations on-screen, not him personally. 
I've been listening to 'The Harder They Come' OST quite a bit since the sentencing. Another classic film I recommend is 'The Front' with Woody Allen, which is based on the McCarthy blacklist. This film helped me to put recent government actions into perspective, and to recall that we can live through these times with grace and courage.
Regards, DM
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Comment #13 posted by goneposthole on September 19, 2003 at 18:12:34 PT
The Harder They Come
The Harder They and allWritten by Jimmy Cliff.And I'll keep on fighting for the things I wantFor I know that when you're dead you can't And, I'd rather be a freeman in my graveThan to live as a puppet or a slaveFor the harder they comeThe harder they and all
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Comment #12 posted by DeVoHawk on September 19, 2003 at 12:14:26 PT:
The Harder They Come
E_Johnson, Thanks for the info on "The Harder They Come", I'll have to check it out. I have also never seen "Easy Rider" but I did start to read it yesterday at the link provided. Your comments are most appreciated as always. Yesterday I erased a line in my "Cheech and Chong Funny" comment that mentioned Otis. I never really knew if Otis locked himself up mocking the law or just had too far to walk to get home. DeVoHawk
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on September 19, 2003 at 11:44:21 PT

Thanks EJ
I'll keep the movie in mind. If you ever hear of it being on A&E or AMC please let me know. I would like to see it. I don't get HBO or any of the other movie channels. 
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Comment #10 posted by E_Johnson on September 19, 2003 at 11:33:22 PT

The Harder They Come foretells a lot
This movie was pretty sophisticated for 1973, because it showed how ganja prohibition fit into a greater pattern of corruption and oppression within Jamaican society.It's really a great companion to Easy Rider.Great music, lots of pot smoking, important social themes.The pot smokers in this movie are serious people struggling to survive, there's barely a comic moment in the whole film despite all of the pot.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on September 19, 2003 at 11:05:44 PT

EJ About Being Serious
That's why I think I liked Easy Rider. I am a very serious person no matter what I've ever done in my life and I enjoy deep issues that make me think more. I'm watching Rust Never Sleeps now and even though it was done in the late 70s it has good messages that fit for our time. Yesterday I listened to I'm Only Bleeding by Bob Dylan from the Easy Rider songs and it sent a shiver down my spine and how prophetic the words were then and still are today. The latest review of Neil Young's Greendale said this:Young was fantastic at his FleetBoston Pavilion show last week. The Globe didn't formally review it because we reviewed essentially the same show at the Tweeter Center a couple of months ago. I saw only the pavilion show, but was blown away. His rock musical, "Greendale," which took up most of the night, was a little difficult to follow at times (actors would pop up on the porch of a small cottage or on a back ramp or in a jail cell, where a Greendale criminal was sent). But Young tied it together beautifully with his bluesy vamps. "Greendale" is basically a hippie morality play, but through words, video, and back-screen graphics, Young took some incredible shots at our current government leaders and at music conglomerate Clear Channel (through a graphic showing a Clear Channel billboard that said, "Support our war"). During the rousing, singalong finale, the cast came forward along with roadies and friends and opening act Emmylou Harris, but most touching of all was that one of Young's sons, who has severe cerebral palsy, was out front in a wheelchair that had both a Canadian and US flag on it. His smile said it all, and it was simply an amazing moment. I wish I could describe what is important to me. The only way I can think of is I love the heart of the hippie movement from way back but what makes it important to me is one common way of thinking about life, loving and the world and what is really important.
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Comment #8 posted by E_Johnson on September 19, 2003 at 11:04:43 PT

Here's my letter
Dear editors,I suppose I should congratulate Ms. McCorkle, the non-stoner that she is, for graciously arguing for the freedom of those spacy dumbass stoners who, like Otis the Drunk, constitute lovable endearing characters in our diverse national sitcom called Life, Liberty and Intoxication.However, I have something shocking to tell her: nobody is free in prison. Prison is a dirty, dangerous, demoralizing place presenting a daily threat of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.Being a 65 year old man, Chong will probably be using most of his time in prison protecting his own physical and mental health, and won't have much time to fight for the authenticity of any characters he may have played in any television shows or movies.

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Comment #7 posted by E_Johnson on September 19, 2003 at 10:47:42 PT

My favorite pot film
Has anyone seen The Harder They Come?It's a movie made in Jamaica, it features a lot of great local reggae. Made in 1973. It made quite an impact because it was such a great film from such a poor country, one without a real film industry.It's about a talented young musician named Ivan who finds corruption and exploitation in the music industry. To survive and support his family, he becomes a ganja dealer, where he also finds corruption and exploitation, at the hands of police and the bosses.He organizes a strike of ganja dealers to demand a reduction in the payoffs they have to make to everyone from their profits. It almost works, but when the police try to assassinate him, he kills a cop and is hunted for the rest of the film.During this time, his reggae song, which he has self-promoted without support from the corrupt industry, becomes a number one song by popular request. His hit song is being played everyone on the radio as he runs from the police.Easy Rider and The Harder They Come -- I guess that's a serious heritage. Maybe Cheech and Chong just never made an impact on me because my cinematic relationship with marijuana was formed on the foundation two extremely serious and very political films.Ivan ends up like Wyatt and Billy.
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Comment #6 posted by E_Johnson on September 19, 2003 at 10:23:17 PT

Spacey dumbass, Otis the drunk, no no no
I don't think she gets the point at all, sorry. I think she looks down on marijuana users but thinks we're useful in fighting Ashcroft.Yes I think stoners should have the right to be mentally inferior to me, those spacy little dumbasses.Chong is being compared to Otis the Drunk on Andy Griffith?On Andy Griffith, Otis let himself into jail and locked the door on himself and tossed the keys away, that's what a trained seal he was.
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Comment #5 posted by goneposthole on September 19, 2003 at 05:36:16 PT

maybe, then again, maybe not
His lawyer is probably more adept at that task.
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Comment #4 posted by WolfgangWylde on September 19, 2003 at 05:15:24 PT

He doesn't have to kiss....
...Ashcroft's ass, but he sure did try.
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Comment #3 posted by goneposthole on September 18, 2003 at 22:19:16 PT

hear hear
>He doesn't have to kiss John Ashcroft's ass. He doesn't have to be a liar and a hypocrite. Like those who went to jail and endured the blacklist during the McCarthy Era, Chong can maintain his integrity in these increasingly right-wing Big Brother times. He can use this imprisonment to publicize the punishment inflicted by our government for a non-violent crime which has harmed no one.John Ashcroft has no courage. Foolish pride and ignorance fetters his conscience. He can't admit that he has done wrong. John Ashcroft is more dangerous than was thought- but only if he continues to hold office. Ashcroft must go. Tommy Chong is going to walk the extra mile, not John Ashcroft.  time to end a war on a plant

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Comment #2 posted by mayan on September 18, 2003 at 18:10:24 PT

"He(Chong) can use this imprisonment to publicize the punishment inflicted by our government for a non-violent crime which has harmed no one."I'm with the author on this one. Everyone may not agree with the way Chong handled his ordeal, but he can turn his punishment into a positive. It is up to him to decide. I hope he gets out & writes a book or gives lectures. I also hope he completes the next Cheech & Chong movie. He has plenty of time to think of some material for it. Maybe they could portray John Asscrotch as the world's biggest paraphernalia dealer who is trying to eliminate the competition? Maybe they could have Chong selling pipes made out of aluminum-foil,pop cans & spent toilet-paper rolls! I doubt if we've seen the last of Chong. I know he will somehow aid us in our struggle. The way out is the way in...Sept. 11, 2003: Second-Anniversary Events in Germany and New York City Reveal Growing Strength, Credibility of Movement: 9/11 Letter To The Boston Globe:
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on September 18, 2003 at 16:41:29 PT

Just a Comment
We just had the most beautiful sky. It was all pink and a full rainbow. The outshirts of the hurricane seem to be getting here and the rain is starting so if I would get behind on articles it would only be because the weather gets bad or our electric goes out. Hopefully it won't but I know it might. About Tommy Chong. I wish him the best and I appreciate his work. The wonderful thing about the cannabis culture is it's diversity. That's one of the reasons it is so special.
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