He's Taking One Big Hit

He's Taking One Big Hit
Posted by CN Staff on October 09, 2003 at 19:13:52 PT
By Hilary E. MacGregor, Times Staff Writer
Source: Los Angeles Times 
This is another pot story, starring Tommy Chong. So it should be funny. Only this time, it's not.Not to U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, who announced dozens of indictments under "Operation Pipe Dreams" in February. Not to U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Mary Beth Buchanan, who heads Ashcroft's advisory committee and turned up in court in Pittsburgh to personally accept Chong's guilty plea. Not to Asst. U.S. Dist. Atty. Mary Houghton, who prosecuted the case. And definitely not to Tommy Chong, who will be spending the next nine months in federal prison.
On Wednesday, Chong turned himself into the Taft Correctional Institution, near Bakersfield. He had pleaded guilty in May to selling bongs over the Internet through his family company, Nice Dreams Enterprises.The severity of his sentence has left Chong, his family and friends dazed and convinced that the government prosecuted the wrong man — the archetypal pothead he played as half of Cheech and Chong on comedy records like 1973's "Los Cochinos" and in hit movies like 1978's "Up in Smoke," or the doped-out hippie he's played in comedy clubs for the last decade with his wife, Shelby, and his Family Stoned Band, or maybe Leo, the aging, waaaay-out photo lab owner he plays on Fox's "That '70s Show." All of those Chongs lived for one thing: to acquire and consume superior marijuana."It's unfortunate that the government can't distinguish between the character I have been playing for years and my real persona," Chong said in one of several interviews over the last week. "It's a very helpless feeling. It is a character. I'm mystified. That is why I have no defense."His longtime partner, Cheech Marin, who is slated to write a new Cheech and Chong movie with him for New Line, finds the situation absurd."I feel like I'm stuck in one of my own movies," Marin said. "These are the same kinds of simpletons we were fighting when we made ["Up in Smoke"], in terms of a repressive administration. That Tommy Chong is going to prison for this is a total miscarriage of justice. The administration should hang its head in shame."Chong's daughter Robbi, who will produce the new movie, said she thinks sending her father to prison is the government's way of trying to shut him up."He's a comedian," she said. "This feels much more political. The only way you would believe it is if it were in a movie — that my father is now Public Enemy No. 1 of the Justice Department." More Mature Look His heavy-lidded eyes still give him a mellowed-out vibe, and he still has a subversive sense of humor, but today's senior citizen Chong, 65, is a meditating, woodworking, charity-giving, inner-city-youth-teaching father of six who has been married to the same woman for more than 30 years. He practices Bikram yoga and hasn't gotten high since the bust. "I'm on a protest fast," he said.He is barely recognizable as the doobie-obsessed goofball of his Cheech and Chong days. Gone is his trademark tangle of hippie hair, replaced by a trim gray beard and hair cut neatly to his shoulders. On Monday, at his last tango lesson in Los Angeles, Chong glided across the floor to the melancholy rhythms of that passionate Argentinian dance, looking more like a cultured intellectual than an icon of the counterculture.Fiora — just Fiora — who has shown Chong's sculptures and installations at her Ghettogloss gallery in Silver Lake, considers him a talented woodworker and photographer who continues to exercise his First Amendment rights in all his creative endeavors, which is really cool. She dismisses those who say his artwork just looks like bongs."Tommy is a really organic guy. I think he is about organic visuals," she said. "People think his flower vases are something else, but they are flower vases. I don't run a smoke shop. I run an art gallery."But it is easy to see why the public, and the government, are confused about where the character ends and the real Tommy Chong begins. He hasn't taken a toke since February, he says, but he would if he were in Amsterdam or Canada, where it is legal. A healthy strain of pot humor peppers every conversation. And he still likes to poke fun at the feds."On the eve of my jail term, if you had told me Arnold Schwarzenegger would be the next governor of California, I would have said, 'What are you smoking?' " he quipped.He visited a healer last week and performed four shows at a comedy club in Lansing, Mich., over the weekend. He shopped for prison necessities on Monday and spent the rest of the day in a photo shoot for Vanity Fair. He took his final tango lesson that evening, and chatted with a reporter between dances — captured on video by his friend Josh Gilbert, who was filming the last free days of Tommy Chong for a documentary.The court made Chong promise he would not profit financially from his case, said his attorney, Richard Hirsch. That means, probably, not weaving what he calls "the incident" into his comedy act. Still, last weekend in Lansing, Chong said, he couldn't help it."I had to," he said. "I talked about how I wasn't supposed to talk about it."Whether or not he is still smoking weed, the sensibility of yesteryear lives on. Between favorite old songs like "Up in Smoke" — with a new verse about terrorists, the World Trade Center and how stoners really care — a videotape of clips from Chong's recent shows includes a tragicomic riff on the morning federal agents raided his home."I finally got busted," he said. "I've been trying for 30 years."Laughter."They said, 'Get out of the way, it's a raid.' They had flashlights. I said, 'What are you looking for, the light switch?' "Laughter."The DEA said, 'Do you have any marijuana in the house?' I said, 'Of course. I'm Tommy Chong.' "Laughter."He said, 'We don't have pot in the search warrant.' I said, 'Let me get this — you're the DEA and you aren't looking for pot?' "Laughter."Well, what are you looking for?""Glass pipes." Snipped:Complete Article: cloud7Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author: Hilary E. MacGregor, Times Staff WriterPublished: October 10, 2003 Copyright: 2003 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:NORML Chong's Freedom Go Up in Smoke? To Appeal Prison Sentence Chong Gets The Joint Cracks Down on Tommy Chong 
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Comment #17 posted by FoM on October 15, 2003 at 14:14:06 PT
News Brief - AP
Attorney Seeks Tommy Chong's Release Pending Appeal
The Associated Press October 15, 2003 
Tommy Chong may smoke weed on screen but that doesn't mean the comedian flouts the law in real life, an attorney seeking Chong's release from minimum-security prison told a federal judge Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab requested more legal background from both prosecutors and Chong's attorney before deciding whether to release the comedian as he appeals his sentence to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.Chong, best-known as the drug-addled Chong in Cheech & Chong movies and comedy routines, is appealing his nine-month prison sentence after pleading guilty in Pittsburgh federal court in May to conspiring to sell drug paraphernalia.Chong reported to a privately run prison near Bakersfield, Calif., last week.Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Houghton argued that Chong grew wealthy glamorizing drug use and trivializing law enforcement in his films. He used his celebrity status to promote his business with mail orders for bongs and other drug paraphernalia topping $1.5 million, Houghton said.When agents raided Chong's business, Nice Dreams Enterprises, prosecutors said they recovered thousands of marijuana bongs and pipes.Houghton quoted one of Chong's Web sites as saying, "Tommy would only put his name on the best."Chong's attorney, Stan Levenson, said it was unfair to punish Chong based on the hippie stoner character he played when he should be sentenced no harsher than any of the other defendants thus far in a national drug paraphernalia investigation that netted Chong.Levenson expressed concern that by the time Chong's appeal was heard, he could have served more than half his sentence.While in Pittsburgh for his plea, Chong had remarked to the media that he might put his legal wrangling in his next movie. Levenson said even though the remark may have been ill-timed, there was no indication he was poking fun at the law.Houghton said Chong clearly used his fame to promote his business by taking pictures with customers, signing autographs and making personal appearances. The nine-month sentence was also within a reasonable range for that type of crime, Houghton said.Schwab gave both sides one week to submit a list of cases in which a sentence was changed before it was heard by an appeals court. A decision would then be made soon after, Schwab said. 
 Copyright: 2003 Associated Press
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Comment #16 posted by JustGetnBy on October 10, 2003 at 14:09:13 PT
The Verdict on RUSH !
  Rush is in deep Do- Do, and he is doing the same thing we all do when we find ourselves in a similiar situation. He is dissimulating, obfuscating, and generally trying to take the focus of of his crime.   The real question here, is, how is the criminal justice system going to deal with his criminal act's? Will they aggresively pursue a criminal indictment, trial, and conviction for his criminal acts? Will they charge him with the most aggresive and punitive laws they can come up with, as they would you and I if we were in his position?  We all know the answer to my questions, but won't it be interesting to watch the spin THEY put on their actions.  I would advise RUSH to ask the Judge for the same deal that Noelle Bush got.  Don't hold your breath waiting to see justice done in this case, cause God knows we all need to breathe on a regular basis to maintain good health.  I would say good luck Rush, but his money is all the luck he needs.
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Comment #15 posted by Ron Bennett on October 10, 2003 at 12:30:41 PT
Rush Limbaugh Statement on Prescription Pain Med
Yahoo article just out about Rush - he's going to go on a 30 day treatment program. Looks like he'll get a "free pass" of sorts, while others in a similar situation would be doing time in the state pen...ah, double-standards alive and well I guess...but that's no surprise really...The real story is how Rush has (lied about it and has been very hypocritical of other illicit drug users over the years) and how he will continue to handle his addition - wonder if he'll change his views now about locking up drug users, etc...if so, that would certainly be a welcomed change and I for one would likely listen to his show a bit to see what else he'd changed his views on...If he's planning to do the 30 day treatment, say nothing, and go back on the air - well that may work, but as I posted here a few days ago, unless Rush has revelations and changes his views on the whole drug war mess among other issues, I doubt his radio show last much longer...but hey that's my dimes worth on the Rush issue...could be wrong and Rush could be the next Governer of California or President of the United States, but I digress :);
Rush Limbaugh Statement on Prescription Pain Medication Stories
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Comment #14 posted by FoM on October 10, 2003 at 12:18:44 PT
Thanks Wolfgang!
I found a press release! Here it is!
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Comment #13 posted by WolfgangWylde on October 10, 2003 at 11:58:21 PT
Great, Tommy... going to jail, and Rush Limbaugh is on the air right now saying he's checking into rehab.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on October 10, 2003 at 11:32:30 PT
I tried to find an email address but with no luck but here is where he is incarcerated. Maybe they have an e-mail address or at least can tell you how to get a letter thru to Tommy. I hope this helps!Taft Correctional Institution1500 Cadet RoadTaft, CA 93268Phone: 661-763-2510Fax: 661-765-3002
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Comment #11 posted by Treeanna on October 10, 2003 at 11:20:17 PT
Today's Response
"Hello,Thanks for contacting NORML. Your email has been forwarded to NORML's 
and they'll attend to the task of getting Chaong's address online.Thanks again,Jan
NORML intern"
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Comment #10 posted by Hope on October 10, 2003 at 09:21:37 PT
Hey, Bud!
Things are getting better. 
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Comment #9 posted by BGreen on October 10, 2003 at 09:09:20 PT
Hi, Hope!
I haven't talked to you in a long time.Is everything going OK in your life?The Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #8 posted by Hope on October 10, 2003 at 09:06:34 PT
You'd better not laugh at me!
"Feature films that he made with his longtime partner Cheech Marin, such as 'Up in Smoke,' trivialize law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking and use."He laughed at them. He got us to laugh at them, too. This charge sounds like they put him in prison for laughing at them."The defendant has become wealthy throughout his entertainment career through glamorizing the illegal distribution and use of marijuana," Cheech and Chong were no more "glamorous" then Abbot and Costello. They didn't glamorize "the illegal distribution and use of marijuana" in any way that I recall. The movies were hilarious, but they weren't glamorous. Last, but probably not least, they resent his wealth. Wealth equals success in some people's eyes and some of those people cannot bear that someone who laughed at them has lived a successful and blessed life.History will view Cheech and Chong as comedians.Self deluding zealots have besmirched God’s good name throughout history.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on October 10, 2003 at 08:56:47 PT
News Article By E! Online
Low Times for Tommy ChongBy Sarah Hall October 10, 2003Cheech and Chong's next movie might have to be a jailhouse documentary. Tommy Chong, one-half of the stoner-comedian duo, reported to a federal prison in Bakersfield, California, Wednesday, to begin serving a nine-month sentence for hawking bongs and other drug trappings out of his online head shop, Chong Glass. 
Chong was weeded out by the feds last February as part of Operation Pipe Dreams--Attorney General John Ashcroft's crackdown on black-market drug paraphernalia sales on the Internet. Drug Enforcement Agents purchased a variety of smoking devices--bongs, pipes and what-have-you--from the Chong Glass site, and then raided Chong's Gardena, California, offices. Chong pleaded guilty to the federal conspiracy charge of peddling drug wares online, but that didn't stop him from cracking wise about the incident in an online chat hosted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. When asked what he thought about feds coming down hard on stoners, he replied, "I feel pretty bad, but it seems to be the only weapons of mass destruction they've found this year." Prosecutors apparently weren't in the right frame of mind to find this funny. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Houghton contended that Chong earned his fortune through hyping drug use and flouting law enforcement, both in his films and through his Website. Despite pleas by Chong's lawyer for a light sentence--six months' house arrest, six months' probation--U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Schwab threw the book at the ganja guru. Chong's pipe dreams of freedom may not be completely up in smoke--the judge has set an October 16 hearing on a request by the funnyman's lawyer to have his client released while he appeals the sentence. These aren't high times for the comic--cooling his heels behind bars will delay his reunion with old partner, Cheech Marin, in the new comedy Cheech and Chong Get Blunt. Chong's daughter, Rae-Dawn, wrote the script with the intent of bringing the drug buddies back together in an ironic star-turn as anti-drug counselors. The film was to have been Cheech and Chong's first collaboration since 1985's music-video compilation Get Out of My Room. The two first made a name for themselves with such stoner cult classics as 1978's Up in Smoke, 1980's Cheech and Chong's Next Movie and 1981's Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams.,1,12671,00.html?tnews
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Comment #6 posted by E_Johnson on October 09, 2003 at 21:06:18 PT
They're obviously very confused at the Times
We thought marijuana prohibition was a good thing.But oh man, Tommy Chong, this is like a nightmare.Hey man, maybe they're just confused! It's not the fault of the War on Drugs, it's all just a case of mistaken identity. They just don't realize he's not the same person any more.Oh yeah hey that's right. Whew, we almost had to care about the human rights of potheads there. But now we can explain it all away as a case of mistaken identity!All is right with the world again at the LA Times, and the editors put the paper to bed and go have a Martini.
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Comment #5 posted by Arthropod on October 09, 2003 at 20:38:46 PT:
Score to settle
The antis seem to be almost out on the proverbial limb. I'll be waiting with my axe when they are forced further out. Remember antis, nothing comes without a price; pride goeth before the fall. Hurt me once, and I'll make sure you will never hurt me again.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on October 09, 2003 at 20:25:52 PT
I Found A Nice Picture of Tommy Chong
This was Tommy Chong as Leo from That's 70s Show. Here it is. I wish him the best of luck.
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Comment #3 posted by Virgil on October 09, 2003 at 20:19:49 PT
15 grams legal in Berlin?
I was reading at the IACM website that publishes the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics and where Dr. Russo serves on their board of directors. In the September 28th newsletter- - it makes this report on Berlin- Germany: Berlin
Possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis may soon become legal in the state of Berlin. The move is supported by the Greens, the Free Democrats, the Social Democrats and the Socialists and opposed by the Christian Democrats. The decision is intended to be made in some months after discussion in the responsible committees of the state parliament. (Source: Berliner Zeitung of 25 September 2003)
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on October 09, 2003 at 19:42:36 PT:
Take a look at this and ask yourself
"The defendant has become wealthy throughout his entertainment career through glamorizing the illegal distribution and use of marijuana," she wrote. "Feature films that he made with his longtime partner Cheech Marin, such as 'Up in Smoke,' trivialize law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking and use."So, laughing at the sheer idiocy of those who know themselves that they are engaged in a Sisyphean feat of decades long pointlessness is somehow a matter of legal importance?America, the SS of Hitler's day were endowed with the same stunning lack of appreciation of irony...or humor. This act was pure, unaldurated spite on the part of Himmler's stepchildren in the (A-hem!) "Justice Department".It is interesting to note that immediately after WW2, the hunters became the hunted, sought by roving bands of Jewish survivors of the camps who went around at night garrotting, shooting, throat-slitting, and otherwise dispatching escaped SS goons who thought they could blend back into the the local populace: read Michael Bar-Zohar's THE AVENGERS for the fascinating details.I am gladdened that we cannabists are not so inclined, for when it is finally legal once more, there will be millions of scores to courtrooms.
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Comment #1 posted by Treeanna on October 09, 2003 at 19:25:14 PT
Still waiting
I am still waiting for NORML to post the info on his mailing address so we can all share it around the world...
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