As Two States Legalize Pot, Tommy Chong Isn't Nostalgic About The Old Days

Dec 5, 2012
Originally published on December 5, 2012 7:11 pm

With Washington state set to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana just after midnight tonight, and Colorado set to decriminalize pot next month, All Things Considered today turned to "stoner" comic Tommy Chong to get his perspective.

Needless to say, the half Asian half of Cheech and Chong is very happy. He's planning to move to both states, Chong joked.

And he's not worried that some of the fun of the stoner humor he and Cheech Marin pioneered in the '70s is going to be gone.

"Going to jail [as he has] and being arrested by cops and being hassled ... is never fun," he said. "There's nothing glamorous ... that we're going to miss."

We'll add the audio from Chong's conversation with NPR's Audie Cornish to the top of this post later.

Meanwhile, though possession is being decriminalized tonight in Washington, "there's no way to legally buy it, except for medical use," as Northwest Public Radio reports. Local law enforcement officials in the Seattle area say, though, that "going after anything marijuana-related is not a high priority right now."

As we've previously posted, the Seattle Police Department has a bit of a sense of humor about the decriminalization. Check out it's blog post: "Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado is a political and cultural victory for these guys.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "UP IN SMOKE")

TOMMY CHONG: (As Anthony Stoner) Is that a joint, man?

CORNISH: Cheech and Chong.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "UP IN SMOKE")

CHEECH MARIN: (As Pedro De Pacas) You know, like I smoke that Michoacan, man, Acapulco Gold, man. I even smoke that tied stick, you know?

CHONG: (As Anthony Stoner) Tied stick?

MARIN: (As Pedro De Pacas) I don't know, that stuff that's tied to a stick, you know? Yeah.

CHONG: (As Anthony Stoner) Oh, Thai stick.

MARIN: (As Pedro De Pacas) Yeah. That didn't even do...

CORNISH: The comedy duo made an entire movie in 1978 about their love of pot called "Up in Smoke," and decades later, as recently as last year, greyer and a bit paunchier, they were touring advocating for legalization.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARIN: (Singing) Got to get it legal. Yeah. Make marijuana legal now.

CORNISH: And Tommy Chong joins me now from NPR West. Hi there, Mr. Chong.

CHONG: Hi.

CORNISH: So this is obviously a huge part of the Cheech and Chong thing, right? The stoner dudes. And I wonder in the beginning, how much of it was about being funny? How much of it was actually advocacy?

CHONG: It was all about entertaining the crowd that we had in front of us. You know, the colleges and all the young kids were wearing long hair and smoking pot. And so we had to relate to the audience.

CORNISH: You've been long an ambassador of pot culture, but you've also become very seriously involved in advocating for legalization. And it seemed to more or less come after your nine-month prison sentence for selling pot-related paraphernalia, bongs and water pipes. How did that experience change you?

CHONG: You know, jail will turn one into an activist.

(LAUGHTER)

CHONG: Before I went to jail, yeah, I was just a, you know, I knew the laws were stupid but so what? You know, I just lived with them like everybody else does. But when they put me in jail, then it was - it got personal. And then I got out and I end up on "The Jay Leno Show" and all these other talk shows like this one, you know, where they say, well, you know, how - what does it feel like to be victimized, you know, by the pot laws? And that's really how I ended up with this attitude because I am not a - one of those guys, you know, that think everybody should smoke and, you know, because I don't. I think you should smoke only if you need it, you know. It's been proven to be a medical - what do you call it - cure for a lot of the problems that we have.

CORNISH: But it sounds like you were sort of nudged into the advocacy role.

CHONG: Totally. Totally. Yeah.

CORNISH: So are you staying involved in the effort to legalize pot in other places? I mean, this is only two states. You have 48 to go.

CHONG: Oh, yeah. I'm involved as much as I can be involved, you know, because sometimes it's better to have a doctor or ex-policeman talk about legalization than me, you know, because when we did our records to teach that, we touched on the legalization theme in the record. But we ended it with a lot of - what do you call it, swear words?

CORNISH: Oh, yeah, explicit terms.

(LAUGHTER)

CHONG: Yeah. Expletives.

CORNISH: Oh, that's right.

CHONG: Yeah. There's a lot of beeping going on. So I'm a lousy - I'm not good because I got no patience with these guys.

CORNISH: How do think that legalization will affect kind of the pot subculture? I mean, is it going to take the fun out of it? In a way, a lot of your humor was based on that.

CHONG: You know, going to jail and being arrested by cops and being hassled, you know, for having a plant - for smoking a plant is never fun. The truth is is that most plant heads feel that it's legal anyway. You know, that's why there's so many of us getting arrested every day, you know, because you're not doing anything wrong. You're smoking a flower, and all of a sudden, you know, you can have the handcuffs on you and be thrown in a squad car. It's a ridiculous law that won't be missed.

CORNISH: And, Tommy Chong, are you planning to move to either one of these states?

CHONG: Yes, I am. Both of them. I'm going to...

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: Well, Tommy Chong, thank you so much for talking with us.

CHONG: Oh, my pleasure.

CORNISH: Comedian and marijuana legalization advocate Tommy Chong. He's one-half of the comedy duo Cheech & Chong, and he's got a new podcast on iTunes about marijuana legalization. It's called "The Chong and Chong Show." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.