Tommy Chong

Last night, I watched an amazing documentary on CBC TV about the U.S. government prosecution of Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong fame).  Millions of dollars were spent to entrap sellers of marijuana paraphernalia with a prime focus on Chong, who sold blown glass “bongs” out of his online business in California. Chong and his wife endured a predawn raid on their home by drug enforcement officers and he eventually was sentenced to 9 months in Taft Prison in California. It seems that the drug enforcement agency was particularly worried about the fact that the comedy act “Cheech and Chong” had been influencing people to take up marijuana smoking.  Their really funny humour always had the completely opposite effect on me.  They perfectly depicted the paranoia, slowed thinking and comic goofiness that everyone recognized as a sure sign of a weed high.

So, there was Tommy Chong, 66 years old, buying sweats and new underwear to go to prison.  He was determined to enter prison with his head held high and endure whatever was put before him.  Of course, it was the “buzz” of the prison that Tommy Chong was coming in and he spent a great deal of time being posed in group photos with the other inmates.  He didn’t make any bones about how soul crushing prison life was but he did it with his own sense of humor.  He came out with a newly recharged career and a more political activist stance than he’d ever had before. 

Immediately after his release, he’s filmed with his wife having a coffee at Starbuck’s.  It brought back to me how much pleasure it is to be able to “choose” what you get to eat and drink when you come out of prison.  It’s so ordinary to be able to walk into a coffee shop until you can’t.  The documentary also chronicles his difficulties getting signed up for monitoring after his release.  He had to register with a police office at 4:00 a.m.—who makes up those schedules? 

It’s probably the same people who decide to imprison someone who has given so many people a lot of laughs.  It’s the ones who would focus their attention on the small fry while the real thieves are looting the U.S. Treasury with nary a knuckle rap.  Unfortunately for the prosecutors, they turned Tommy Chong into a late bloomer celebrity all over again.  Good for you, Tommy, and thanks for the inspiration.

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