Nine Months in Jail is Bad Trip for Tommy Chong

Nine Months in Jail is Bad Trip for Tommy Chong
Posted by CN Staff on September 19, 2003 at 19:14:50 PT
By Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
Source: Guardian Unlimited UK
One of America's best-known counter-cultural comedians, Tommy Chong, is facing the prospect of a nine-month jail sentence after being convicted of selling glass pipes on the internet which can be used for smoking cannabis. Lawyers for Chong, 65, one half of the famous Cheech and Chong comedy duo and more recently a television actor, claim the US attorney general, John Ashcroft, chose to prosecute him for the publicity value. The glass pipes, or "bongs", that Chong has been offering for sale are the same as those that have been sold for years by thousands of "head shops" all over the US and Europe, and Chong has regularly been paying taxes on their sales.
"They are really prosecuting him for who he is," his Los Angeles-based attorney, Richard Hirsh, said yesterday. "It was a very selective prosecution. Ashcroft is 100% behind it." Mr Hirsh said that for many years the sale of bongs and pipes had been accepted and no notice had been given of an intended change in policy. Twenty-two people have been convicted of selling pipes since Mr Ashcroft launched Operation Pipe Dreams last year. Some 650,000 people in the US are arrested each year for minor cannabis possession. Chong, who has no previous convictions and has run his business in Gardena, California, alongside an acting career, was arrested after a sting operation in which federal agents in Pittsburgh ordered bongs over the internet, thus ensuring that the items were sent across state lines. Judge Arthur Schwab said jail was appropriate for "a felony of conspiring to distribute drug paraphernalia", and sentenced him to nine months last week. His lawyers are deciding whether to appeal. Chong, who was born in Canada, linked up with "Cheech" Marin in the 1970s and made a number of comedy films with a cannabis-related theme. Among them were Up In Smoke, Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams, Still Smokin' and, in the 1990s, National Lampoon's Senior Trip. His latest film is Pot Luck. -- Title: Nine Months in Jail is Bad Trip for 'Bong' Seller Tommy Chong Source: Guardian Unlimited, The (UK)Author: Duncan Campbell in Los AngelesPublished: Saturday, September 20, 2003Copyright: 2003 Guardian Newspapers LimitedContact: letters Articles:Chong To Appeal Prison Sentence Chong Gets The Joint Cracks Down on Tommy Chong 
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Comment #23 posted by FoM on September 22, 2003 at 14:14:03 PT
Just a Note
I said I did dumb things when I was that age. That sounded to me after I read what I posted like I'm saying I don't do dumb things now and that's just not so. Just ask my husband! LOL! There I feel better now.
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Comment #22 posted by FoM on September 22, 2003 at 12:44:34 PT
I checked out the link. I really am not up on what happened many years ago and haven't talked about it. I do remember an about face as far as reform of marijuana laws. I thought marijuana would be totally legal in a few years from when they changed our states laws but it didn't happen. Let's say all of it is true. Is there any benefit to thinking too much about it now in 2003? I mean that. I'm not defending Keith Stroup but it seems he was around 30 years old. I know I did dumb things when I was that age. It is very upsetting to read but still where do we as a community of activists go from here?
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Comment #21 posted by kaptinemo on September 22, 2003 at 12:17:21 PT:
E_J, you might want to read this..
I've come across many books on the history of the ups-and-downs of the drug law reform movement regarding cannabis specifically, and many of them are little more than rehashes of a seminal work...that many in the movement wish never existed.High in America, copyrighted 1981 by Patrick Anderson of the people largely responsible IN OUR OWN CAMP for some of the pivotal moments (i.e. the very first White House Drug Czar Dr. Peter Bourne was ratted out by someone still being hailed as a hero by some in the movement) where drug law reform shot itself in the foot ARE STILL BREATHING. Had it not been for some of them and their having alienated the Carter White House with their boorish antics, this website and dozens of others like it might not have been necessary. The 'parents movement' would never have been able to blindside us and bedevil us for 20+ years. The whole prison/industrial complex might never have appeared.I could go on, but I invite all and sundry to read the online book in it's entirety. Like any such work, the author admits bias. I certainly don't admit to any prescience regarding events that I had not participated in personally, but from what I have been able to glean in my own research and later admissions made publicly by those individuals years after publishing much of the book accurately paints a none-too-pretty picture. At many points, the work is very critical of some very major players, some (thankfully) dead and some still present. It's plenty old and dated, but it gives an idea of how we, you and me, dear cannabists, have had to go through so much Hell these past two decades.We can't lay the blame entirely at the feet of antis; they simply are not that clever.
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Comment #20 posted by FoM on September 22, 2003 at 12:03:34 PT
Check Out NORML's Ad for Tommy Chong on Slate
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Comment #19 posted by kaptinemo on September 22, 2003 at 11:57:18 PT:
We're not the only ones incensed at Chong's fate
From the Take Back the Media Website:*We want to get the word out on Tommy Chong - WHAT THE HELL IS ASHCROFT DOING? (We really aren't going to make any money on this at these prices, especially with shipping and handling - this is more of a public service.) We're going to promote information that will expose the Injustice of this situation and push for his freedom at every opportunity. We're going to set up a section on our site for this purpose.*The site shows a wildly off-color poster of Chong with the caption:"Hey, Ashcroft! WHY IS THE ANTHRAX MAILER STILL RUNNING FREE? WHY IS KEN LAY NOT IN JAIL?" 
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Comment #18 posted by Mike on September 21, 2003 at 13:07:21 PT
The internet 
It allows everyone to get involved where they might otherwise not, lest fear of Nazis kicking down their doors and shooting up the place. The internet offers decent anonominity and is an excellent means of desseminating information, which is great when you have the truth on your side.Could you imagine trying to pass a ballot initiative today that would re-criminalize cannabis? Would never happen. The only reason that 1990 Alaska initiative passed was because it happened before the internet expanded beyond universities and government places. It was very primitive and all text too as I remember. The biggest online service was Prodigy and they were not even connected to the internet. Prodigy had no live chat, unlike GEnie and CompuServe, who charged live chats by the minute. In the beginning, all of the online services were heavily involved in censorship. Real concerns at the time were "criminals plotting together" online.  An organized movement against that Alaska initiative would have been censored. Then Prodigy tried charging 25 cents per email, quickly spelling its demise and bringinging rise to others like AOL.It will be an interesting future, and drug Nazis will look ridiculous in short order. Truly, in the grand scheme of things, they will become irrelevant. Actually it will be fun watching them sink! Thank you for bringing us this, FoM. You are our cannabis lifeline!E_J You know that political apathy that stoners had in the 70's and 80's has shifted and now its the other way around. Our side is so well armed now, and the prohibitionists have Johnny P Nazi, Von Ashcroft... ummm all the people earning their living from the drug war..drug dealers.. and Joyce Napkla. Oh, and whoever switches sides for the betterment of themselves, like Tommy Chong.Anyway, how was that for topic drift? haha
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Comment #17 posted by E_Johnson on September 20, 2003 at 23:08:08 PT
I'm sure it will FoM
The Internet is changing everything already. 
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on September 20, 2003 at 14:23:01 PT
The Internet
I don't know about how it was years ago because we didn't have the Internet. We see how much news is censored by the Media now and no matter what good that was going on years ago no one knew about it I don't think. Hopefully the Internet will be what finally brings change.
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Comment #15 posted by freedom fighter on September 20, 2003 at 13:46:10 PT
What about
the impact of Watergate? I know that's before Carter and I feel that it probably affected all level of voters in U.S. more than we thought.After all, my dad who does not smoke pot never voted. I was only 16 at that time. I don't remember schools teaching me to go out and vote. And the Vietnam...All I know was by the time I graduated from High school, I basically do not believe anything in the Government. Just maybe today things be different with the Internet.. Seattle won and if we look at how many different groups they worked to get together..We got a chance!pazff
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Comment #14 posted by firedog on September 20, 2003 at 13:42:14 PT
What ever happened to the 1st Amendment?
A while back, I thought I heard somebody say something about glass pipes, bongs, etc. being protected under the 1st Amendment because they can be viewed as "works of art". And it's definitely the case that some of the glass pipes I've seen are very artistic.The fact that Chong's sentencing was influenced by his acting career should be grounds alone for overturning the sentence, but what about the "works of art" argument? Could this be used in the future as a disclaimer? "The following work of glass art is not intended to be used in any manner that violates federal law..."
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Comment #13 posted by E_Johnson on September 20, 2003 at 11:51:11 PT
Why Carter backpedaled
I'm sure Carter's aides realized there was no big Democratic political gain to be had from the marijuana community, because the marijuana users of America were rejecting politics completely at the time when Carter needed help.Either rejecting politics, or canceling each other out by fragmenting into different movements on the left and right.The Grateful Dead had something to do with it too. Jerry Garcia was deliberately apolitical, and while that may have suited him and his music and his community, it was actually bad for marijuana politics to have a huge community of apolitical pot smokers romaing America spreading their apolitical gospel.
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Comment #12 posted by E_Johnson on September 20, 2003 at 11:43:48 PT
Insider politics means nothing
None of the apolitical inactive marijuana users after 1976 knew a thing about Keith Stroup or inside marijuana politics.Everyone I knew was too busy trying to score coke and find a hot disco to care about what was going on inside NORML.There was a whole hedonistic coke-snorting apolitical mentality that started in the late seventies, and there was no movement possible then.And Cheech and Chong was either an expression of that, or a part of the engine that stoked it, I don't know, but nobody I knew ever even heard of Kieth Stroup.Even the people whom NORML helped stay out of jail back then didn't give a damn about Keith Stroup or the movement, they forgot about NORML the minute they left the court building with their probation.
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Comment #11 posted by WolfgangWylde on September 20, 2003 at 11:32:28 PT
Nice to see..
...this getting some play abroad. It has to make the U.S. look like the idiots that we are.By the way E_J, Disco didn't derail marijuana legalization in the 70's. Stroup narced on a White House aide, and the Carter Administartion began backpedaling as fast as possible.
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Comment #10 posted by E_Johnson on September 20, 2003 at 10:30:42 PT
More thinking of the apolitical past
Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgmont High typified the post-hippie Cheech and Chong generation stoner. He grew up with Cheech and Chong already in the culture. In high school he expressed the Cheech and Chong ethic, he probably imitated them at lunch.The dude had no money but always had kind bud, so we know (wink wink) that he was the generation that discovered you could grow your own.But he didn't really care about politics, or legalization. Mr. Hand had to follow him home on prom night and keep him from graduating just to get him to acknowledge the Bill of Rights.That guy was a guy who was pretty much defenseless against the system.It would be interesting to speculate on what happened to Spicoli when the war against him intensified.Maybe he's in federal prison for cultivation, waiting to see a live performance of Cheech and Chong, without Cheech.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on September 20, 2003 at 09:10:52 PT
It's really good to see you. I hope everything is going well for you. 
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Comment #8 posted by E_Johnson on September 20, 2003 at 08:19:37 PT
I remember 1980
My friend's head shop was closing down because of the new anti-paraphernalia law. (I forgot which law it was, one of the first I suppose).Where were all the pot smokers, he wondered. Why can't we organize a protest?We were all kind of into the Cheech and Chong mentality, which was about smoking weed, not about fighting back. Politics was uncool, man. For geeks and narcs.It pains me to think of the look on my friends face being hit by the new reality of the eighties.
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Comment #7 posted by E_Johnson on September 20, 2003 at 08:07:29 PT
The way I see our past
In the early and middle seventies, the hippie liberation energy from Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement circled around and went into other causes. Two of those causes were marijuana legalization and women's rights.The marijuana legalization movement reached a peak in 1976 when the marijuana movement decriminalized marijuana in California. Everyone thought that legalization was a few years away. Everyone put the Eagles on the stereo and lit a joint of Colombian and kicked back.But then disco reared its ugly head, and everywhere in disco music there was coke. Nobody had formed any political ideals around coke in the sixties, except for Easy Rider which was against thinking that the freedom to make money from it was actual freedom that could protect you from oppression.In 1978 Up in Smoke came out and put forward the idea that we already were free, as long as the cops remained suitably dumb, and all we needed to do for the rest of our lives was continue to listen to the Eagles and get high.Well, disco ended but the coke kept going and people stopped having a good time on it, and the cops got smarter and started learning to earn their living from specifically from controlling it.Then the Reagan administration took the growing war on disco and coke and decided that there needed to be a war specifically on the Cheech and Chong subculture of potheads.Which is how urine testing came along.Why wasn't there a political uprising by the millions of marijuana users in America?I can't say for sure, I cannot blame it on Cheech and Chong, let's just say that for some reason Up in Smoke signified the complete and utter loss of political direction from the marijuana movement.Signified, enabled, caused, stimulated, respresented after the fact -- I don't know.The marijuana movement had depoliticized by then to the point where it was actually uncool to care about legalization.When Reagan attacked, the troops fighting back were pretty meager. The way I would process that whole period from early victory to intensified war is to say that Wyatt was right, and Billy blew it.
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Comment #6 posted by Arthropod on September 20, 2003 at 07:27:55 PT:
Someone needs to get John Ashcroft reading again. Find a copy of "1984" by George Orwell, and force him to read it until he has memorized the entire book.
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Comment #5 posted by Hope on September 20, 2003 at 06:53:02 PT
This makes me so sad.
Is he ever going to make some movie out of this. That is...if They let him.I can almost see the "older, newer Cheech and Chong". In this movie, poor Chong is in prison stripes. He's gray, and grizzled and wearing trifocal John Lennon glasses. He's dressed in prison stripes and shackles, shuffling along..."Hey, man...what's the hold up?", as he gazes at a mile long line of people in prison stripes and shackles being processed ahead of him. (camera pans back to mile long line behind him)."Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."C. S. Lewis
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Comment #4 posted by goneposthole on September 20, 2003 at 04:42:12 PT
bias defined (
n. the predisposition of a judge, arbitrator, prospective juror, or anyone making a judicial decision, against or in favor of one of the parties or a class of persons. This can be shown by remarks, decisions contrary to fact, reason or law, or other unfair conduct. Bias can be toward an ethnic group, homosexuals, women or men, defendants or plaintiffs, large corporations, or local parties. Getting a "hometown" decision is a form of bias which is the bane of the out-of-town lawyer. There is also the subtle bias of some male judges in favor of pretty women. Obvious bias is a ground for reversal on appeal, but it is hard to prove, since judges are usually careful to display apparent fairness in their comments. The possibility of juror bias is explored in questioning at the beginning of trial in a questioning process called voir dire.
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Comment #3 posted by Jose Melendez on September 20, 2003 at 04:18:57 PT
One lawyer says one thing, the other the opposite.
"The United States attorney made a big deal about Tommy's movies and how he portrayed drug usage and law enforcement," Stanton B. Levenson said Friday. "We didn't think it would be appropriate to consider his public persona. ... That's not him." compare that with:Lawyers for Chong, 65, one half of the famous Cheech and Chong comedy duo and more recently a television actor, claim the US attorney general, John Ashcroft, chose to prosecute him for the publicity value. The glass pipes, or "bongs", that Chong has been offering for sale are the same as those that have been sold for years by thousands of "head shops" all over the US and Europe, and Chong has regularly been paying taxes on their sales. "They are really prosecuting him for who he is," his Los Angeles-based attorney, Richard Hirsh, said yesterday.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on September 19, 2003 at 21:14:59 PT
Thank you.
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Comment #1 posted by goneposthole on September 19, 2003 at 21:10:06 PT
judged guilty as charged
He is as guilty as the day is long. He sold pipes so people could enjoy smoking a plant. He did it, and is going to pay the price for doing so. What should the punishment be for selling pipes?Tommy Chong is guilty for selling pipes. Convicted and sentenced. The death sentence is'nt a severe enough penalty
in this case, in the eyes of Mr. Ashcroft. If Mr. Ashcroft could, he would have Tommy Chong in Camp X-ray.I don't know if the sky is falling, but something is here.Mr. Ashcroft is violating a law. He has to be; if not in violation of any law, the ethics of it are atrocious. The term 'with bias' can be applied here, which would nullify the trial. A 'with bias' as evidence, the trial is dismissed.Mr. Tommy Chong could then sue Mr. John Ashcroft for 'defamation of character'. Mr. Ashcroft's cynical smirk isn't funny. Tommy Chong can entertain and make you laugh. In spite of all of his faults, he is funny. Mr. Ashcroft isn't funny. He doesn't make me meagre two cents. 
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