Tommy Chong Gets Nine Months for Selling Pot Pipes

  Tommy Chong Gets Nine Months for Selling Pot Pipes

Posted by CN Staff on September 11, 2003 at 22:27:41 PT
By Torsten Ove, Post-Gazette Staff Writer  
Source: Post-Gazette  

After describing himself as a former marijuana user who beat drugs by learning to dance to salsa, 65-year-old actor Tommy Chong told a federal judge yesterday that he's now a role model for young people in Los Angeles and wants to help them stay off drugs.He and his lawyers were hoping for a community service sentence as punishment for distributing thousands of bongs and marijuana pipes online through his California company, Nice Dreams Enterprises.
But Chong, famous for such movies as "Up in Smoke" with longtime partner Cheech Marin, is going to prison instead.U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab yesterday gave him nine months in a federal lockup and fined him $20,000.As part of the sentence, Chong forfeited his Internet domain name,, along with $103,514 in cash and all of the drug paraphernalia seized by federal agents during a raid Feb. 24.He'll be allowed to self-report to prison, probably to a facility nearest his Pacific Palisades, Calif., home.The case against him was part of "Operation Pipe Dreams," a national investigation of drug paraphernalia distributors that began in Pittsburgh during the prosecution of Akhil Kumar Mishra and his wife, Rajeshwari, who ran two head shops Downtown in the 1990s.In February some 55 people were arrested and head shops and distributors across the country were shut down. Chong wasn't arrested at the time, but his business, which employed several glass blowers, was among those raided.U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, who appeared in court for the hearing yesterday, said the sentence was significant because it tells the public that "there are consequences for violating the law, even if the violator is a well-known entertainer like Thomas Chong."Chong pleaded guilty in May.After his plea, he joked with the news media about putting the criminal case in his next movie with Cheech Marin.The U.S. attorney's office pointed to those comments to show that Chong, far from being apologetic, was making light of the case and might exploit it for money.When reporters asked him for comment this time, he said only "not a word."In court, he said plenty.Chong, whose full name is Thomas B. Kin Chong, apologized for his conduct and said he had tried to make amends by instructing young people in inner-city L.A. to dance and learn about the movie industry, saying he has a "natural ability to teach."He also said anti-drug commercials don't work on young people and he asked for the chance to "make a difference" by using his celebrity to help them stay sober."I play a loser for laughs," he said. "My movie, 'Up in Smoke,' was made 30 years ago. I couldn't make that movie today. I'm not that person anymore."Federal prosecutors indicated they weren't entirely convinced.Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary McKeen Houghton pointed out, for example, that when agents raided his home they found close to a pound of marijuana.She also said Chong had made a career of glamorizing pot-smoking and capitalized on his status in making personal appearances at head shops across the United States, where he promoted his line of bongs and pipes with his picture on them.In addition, he advertised the paraphernalia on his company's Web site and on his personal Web site, Houghton said Chong "used his public image to promote this crime" and marketed his products to children.Chong and his lawyers had previously asked Schwab to postpone sentencing so they could explore alternatives like community service, but the judge said "no." They asked again yesterday and again the judge said "no."Schwab actually gave Chong a bit of a break. Under sentencing guidelines, he could have sentenced him to a year in prison and a $250,000 fine.But he also could have let Chong serve part of his term in a halfway house or on home detention. He refused to do either, saying the prison term was "appropriate."Chong admitted to distributing 7,500 bongs and marijuana pipes on the Internet through Nice Dreams, a family company that was named for one of his movies.He also entered a guilty plea for the company, which did business as Chong Glass in Gardena, Calif. The corporation is now defunct.Complete Title: Actor Tommy Chong Gets Nine Months for Selling Pot PipesSource: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)Author: Torsten Ove, Post-Gazette Staff Writer Published: Friday, September 12, 2003Copyright: 2003 PG PublishingContact: letters post-gazette.comWebsite: Articles: Tommy Chong Gets Nine Months Chong's Hopes May Be Up In Smoke Admits Marijuana Equipment Sales

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Comment #20 posted by ekim on September 15, 2003 at 12:11:16 PT
please reread this this insightfull comment #20 posted by Petard on September 05, 2003 at 22:03:28 PT 
Part of the Polititcal problem is 
We have bought into a flawed system of election campaigning. Think about it for a minute.We are told by candidates, "Vote for me cuz I stand for this and that. I'll promote this and won't go for that."Shouldn't they be ASKING US for what WE WANT since we choose them to represent us? Isn't their individual opinion only supposed to be one vote on any issue? They are elected to represent the people but they only represent themselves and their personal agendas. Hell, if the people want something as outrageous as say, public hangings of all convicted traffic violators, isn't it the politicians duty to propose the legislation and support it, regardless of their personal opinion?But no. We listen to them debate each other on what they individually declare to be THEIR priorities without their even asking us what we want them to prioritize. Then we go and cast our votes based on THEIR agendas. How many candidates actually ASK US what they should or should not support? ZERO that's how many. No wonder there is voter apathy, nobody asked them what they want. That's akin to going to the store and having the store tell you what to buy. "Excuse me sir/m'aam, that item is not on our list of items you can buy, you'll not be allowed to purchase that." Sound familiar?
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Comment #19 posted by Dan B on September 15, 2003 at 11:58:28 PT
P.S.--I am not chilled, nor should I be
I don't feel chilled. I feel invigorated. I feel more determined than ever. I feel like maybe now the rest of the country will finally see what we mean when we say that the drug laws are unjust. I am even more inclined to speak out now than I was before the judge made the stupid comments that he made and passed down an unduly harsh sentence (any sentence for possession of "drug paraphernalia" is unduly harsh, by the way) because of his own bias. I hope everyone else who reads Cannabis News also feels more determined than ever. We should be holding Tommy Chong up as yet another martyr in this evil war on some drugs. That is the kind of thing that rouses the troops into action.Dan B
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Comment #18 posted by Dan B on September 15, 2003 at 11:51:42 PT
Nothing has changed
Do you really believe that Tommy Chong is the first to have been given a near-maximum sentence simply because the judge didn't like what he stands for? There is nothing new here. You are correct that people need to consider carefully what they say about drugs and legalization if they fear prosecution. I, for one, am willing to take the chance of being persecuted for my beliefs even if they do come after me and put me in prison. Of course, they'd have to charge me with something other than possession since I don't have any cannabis in my possession. Or, more likely, they'd simply plant some.For the record, I do not think you are blowing this out of proportion. You are absolutely justified in your anger, and I am glad to see it being expressed here. I do think, however, that you are, perhaps, just how realizing how deeply those of us who want change are hated by our own government. The sentence Tommy Chong received was within sentencing guidelines. I am angry not just with the guidelines but also with the laws that make those guidelines possible. I am also angry with the judge for using his own bias to make decisions about another person's life. Unfortunately, that is the way the law works in this country. I am not advocating throwing up our hands in despair; I am advocating focusing on what should be our real target: the laws that allow our government to lock up people because they choose to do what they see fit with their own bodies.The reason why the Cheech and Chong movies are so funny is that they show people bucking the system without a care in the world about doing so. "I'll smoke pot if I want to" is what they seem to be saying, and that is a message that the government hates. Of course they're going to go after anyone who spreads such a message. We shouldn't be surprised at it. Instead, we should use such instances as examples of injustice--use it against the system. With regard to your original comment, I said that "the worst thing for us is that we will have to wait for the next movie" because I recognize that we aren't witnessing a new development with this case. It's the same old crap. People will continue to make movies about cannabis use--of that I am certain. I would be extremely surprised if the next Cheech and Chong movie is not made. I would be doubly surprised if this ruling puts any kind of damper on future pot-themed movies. It may, in fact, increase the likelihood that such movies will be made, if only to further stick it to the system. That's what such movies are about.Dan B
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Comment #17 posted by E_Johnson on September 15, 2003 at 06:31:41 PT
NOT the worst thing Dan B
It is not the worst thing to happen to "us" that "we" might have to wait another nine months for a movie.The worst thing for the part of "we" that contains me is that now the right to make any pot movies of any kind is in jeopardy, because now we know that they can be legally held against us in criminal proceedings.This is called a "chilling effect".I feel chilled, and so should you.
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Comment #16 posted by E_Johnson on September 15, 2003 at 06:29:14 PT
Dan B how can there be another movie?
How can there ever be another pot movie ever made, now that we know that we can be criminally punished for having made them?Why would anyone even admit in public now that we even want marijuana to be legal, now that we see concrete eviedence that our words and expressions can be used as evidence against us during a criminal sentencing?If youy get busted, they can use everything you have written to add as much time as possible to your sentence.So you'd better be careful now.Watch what you say, because as a person who glamorizes drugs, you just lost your right to express yourself freely.
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Comment #15 posted by Dan B on September 13, 2003 at 13:27:11 PT
The Worst Thing
Of course, I meant to say that the worst thing about it as far as we are concerned is that we will miss his new movie for another nine months. That is, of course, not the worst thing for Tommy Chong, and I apologize if my offhand comment came across as being uncaring. It is terrible that he will have to spend nine months away from friends and family for this stupid, stupid charge. I hope that when he comes out of jail he comes out swinging. Metaphoricaly speaking, of course.Dan B
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Comment #14 posted by Dan B on September 13, 2003 at 13:23:31 PT
Tommy will be fine
If anyone has a chance of making out of jail okay (at least in terms of how the other prisoners will treat him), it is Tommy Chong. He'll be okay, as long as he doesn't piss off the wrong guard. I think his sense of humor will cary him through.I say this not to downplay the sentence, which is absolutely disgraceful in a supposedly "free" society, but to encourage those who fear for his safety. The worst thing about this is that it postpones his new movie, Best Buds, by at least nine months. That's too bad, especially because he deserves to live in peace as he has for the past 65 years, but perhaps his experience in prison will make him a stronger advocate for change. In other words, I'm all for thinking positive.As for whether Chong should have fought the charges: look, they caught him. Furthermore, it was political. He knew it was political and took the best option that he could. If you have a problem with that, I challenge you to enter a "not guilty" plea if you end up in his circumstances. He knew the feds wanted to take him down as a symbolic thing, and he didn't let them get him for any longer than the minimum. I don't judge him for that. In the long run, his sentencing will work in our favor.Already, the media are beginning to turn on Tommy Chong's sentencing. I heard backlash on the radio yesterday, and I heard backlash on both The Daily Show and Jimmy Kimmel during the past couple of days. There are vocal people out there who are on our side, and they are sickened by the jailing of Tommy Chong. Perhaps Chong believed that pleading guilty would bring more attention to the stupidity of prohibition than would pleading not guilty. I don't know, and neither do any of you, so stop judging him.Dan B
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Comment #13 posted by E_Johnson on September 12, 2003 at 18:58:49 PT
It's not the plea
He could have pled guilty with dignity.
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Comment #12 posted by Rev Jonathan Adler on September 12, 2003 at 17:58:43 PT:
Sad Commentary, true story.
Compare this story to what happened to me. I successfully proved to a jury, I was not guilty. The mistrial was proof.
The 2nd time out, they had me facing 90 years on charges for two cases. I had to do 6 months straight time anyway, so why not agree that I had supplied an undercover who lied about his back pain to get our church's holy sacrament. He lied, I pled guilty to believing him, and did a half a year in jail.
It is time that can never be returned and life goes on. 
I feel I stood up for our liberties as best anyone could expect and did not ever give up the struggle for our freedom. Every day in jail with 100 ice heads and psycho-guards, I told myself, somebody out there cares what I was trying to do. I took the "burn". Good Luck, Tommy. Make your stay a positive one. Peace and safety in the system.. 
Aloha from Paradise. Rev. Jonathan Adler
I hope my time was not wasted.
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Comment #11 posted by E_Johnson on September 12, 2003 at 17:14:24 PT
What about his effect on others?
Of course Tommy Chong was trying to cut the best deal for HIMSELF. The Baby Boomer generation is all about SELF.Up in Smoke was about making himself rich. Denying his own work was about making himself safe.But he didn't make himself rich, he did that with the help of others. Those others are paying the price. Those others are suffering every day in this war.It's an insult to everyone who has ever suffered in this war for Tommy Chong to publicly debase himself like this to save his own skin.And the sickest thing of all was that this public debasement was all over a measly one year in prison. His debasement of himself only bought him three months.For all the money he has made from marijuana and from marijuana users, he could have stepped up and taken a one year bullet for the movement and kept his dignity and helped raise ours.How many years has he been able to live like a rich man thanks to us?He can't spare one of those years for the cause?Well now he's going to give up nine months, and he's missed any opportunity he had to make it matter.
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Comment #10 posted by John Tyler on September 12, 2003 at 16:50:51 PT
It's sad to see someone like this have to undergo self denunciation and humiliation for speaking out against unjust laws. He could have fought it longer, but he would have lost. This was a political trial. The "fix was in". He is 65 years old. He wanted to cut the best deal he could, but he still got screwed. Look what happened to poor Dionne Warwick.Good luck Tommy. Keep your head up.   
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Comment #9 posted by Arthropod on September 12, 2003 at 11:02:29 PT:
Canada for Tommy
He'll have a time makin it across the border. Unless he has a private jet or want to take a chance with the coast guard, he won't make it. The second he shows up to customs he's toast.
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Comment #8 posted by E_Johnson on September 12, 2003 at 10:55:03 PT

A lost opportunity
I think in my mind of the magnificent speech he could have delivered to the judge that would have taken a stand for all the powerless ordinary citizens who have made him rich over the years.But being a true Baby Boomer, loyal to his generation, such moral leadership and self sacrifice is utterly beyond his grasp.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on September 12, 2003 at 07:50:38 PT

Is this a new ruling? I haven't found an article so far and I've been looking. I hope it is new. That would make my day! Thanks!
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Comment #6 posted by escapegoat on September 12, 2003 at 06:57:40 PT

Tommy Chong...BC's newest reefer refugee?
I hope so, anyway. Get youself to Canada NOW, Tommy. It's time to come home. Besides, pot's officialy been legalized in BC:
 R v. Masse
 200309042003 BCPC 0328
 File No:
 62876-1 Registry:
 New WestminsterIN THE PROVINCIAL COURT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA[1] Kurtis Lee Masse stands charged on information 62876-1, that on or about
the 21st day of February, 2003 at or near the City of New Westminster, he
did unlawfully possess a controlled substance, to wit: Cannabis (marihuana),
contrary to Section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is
an application pursuant to section 601 of the Criminal Code of Canada to
quash the information on the ground that it does not name an offence known
to law as required by section 581(1) of the Code.[2] The issue before me is simply this; is possession of cannabis
(marihuana) an offence known to law in British Columbia?[snip]Disposition[67] It follows therefore, that there is no offence known to law at this
time for simple possession of marihuana. The application is allowed.
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Comment #5 posted by Richard Paul Zuckerm on September 12, 2003 at 06:56:35 PT:

The incarceration of Tommy Chong and medical marijuana patients MAKES ME MORE DETERMINED to oppose injustice, to send $35 to $50 per year to various organizations, e.g.,;;;;;;;;; for the opportunity to attend various events and take in a variety of viewpoints; against the "Drug War", which includes drug decriminalization and the end of most gun control laws; against government schooling, against the fast-tracked H.R. 1078 due to be voted upon THIS WEEK, for the reasons stated by and his cover article of this month's Harper's Magazine; to get the word out that September 11, 2001, disaster was an INSIDE JOB. Please read the Web article entitled STRANGER THAN FICTION, by Dr. Albert D. Pastore, Ph.D., www.whatreallyhappened.stf1.html? I printed and read this 55 page article almost in one sitting because it is captivating and persuasive!!! Please read this Web article?
"NOTHING DOTH MORE HURT IN A STATE THAN THAT CUNNING MEN PASS FOR WISE." Sir Francis Bacon.Richard Paul Zuckerman, Box 159, Metuchen, New Jersey, 08840-0159, (Cell telephone number)(908) 403-6990. richardzuckerman2002 in Paralegal, New York University, 2003;
Diploma in Truck Driving, with up-to-date New Jersey Commercial Drivers License, Smith & Solomon School of Truck Driving, Edison, N.J., 1995;
B.A. in Political Science, with so many criminal justice courses special permission was needed to graduate, Kean College of New Jersey [subsequently renamed Kean University], 1987.
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Comment #4 posted by goneposthole on September 12, 2003 at 04:59:16 PT

Hundred dollar bills
Tommy Chong should have been a cocaine user and sold hundred dollar bills on line for people to snort cocaine. He could have become the President of the United States! Of course, he would have been forced to deny all of his illegal activity before the election. George Bush would not admit to past drug use when asked and now he's the Commander and Chief. Go figure.A pre-requisite qualification to be a candidate for federal office is to be a drug user and then deny it or refuse to admit it, it seems.Same old same old. Justice... bah.
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Comment #3 posted by OverwhelmSam on September 12, 2003 at 04:32:02 PT:

Poor Tommy
He should have fought the charges. Sell out.
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Comment #2 posted by RevHappy on September 12, 2003 at 00:27:34 PT:

I like Your Version Better
We can all smell the fish when its rotten. Good luck Tommy, and thanks....
Like Tommy Chong Checks Cannabis News!
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Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on September 11, 2003 at 22:43:16 PT

Another version of the same story
After years of getting rich from portraying pot smokers as amoral buffons, 65-year-old actor Tommy Chong told a federal judge yesterday that he's now a role model for drug free amoral buffoons.He and his butt licking lawyers were hoping for a community service sentence as a reward for throwing away the hopes of three generations of marijuana prisoners and publicly kowtowing to the brutal system that has enslaved them.But Chong, famous for such movies as "Up in Smoke" with longtime partner Cheech Marin, is going to prison instead.Chong, whose full name is Thomas B. Kin Chong, apologized for his conduct and said he had tried to make amends by taking the typical sellout approach in Hollywood of vowing to help make further war against marijuana users.He also said anti-drug commercials don't work on young people and he asked for the chance to "make a difference" by using his celebrity to help them learn to stop questioning the system."I play a loser for laughs," he said. "My movie, 'Up in Smoke,' was made 30 years ago. I couldn't make that movie today. Today's potheads have too much dignity and have suffered too much in this war to put up with my bullshit any more."
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