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Let me begin by saying that although it came reluctantly, I am a huge fan of Tommy Chong.
I say ‘reluctantly’ because some of the very same issues that will be addressed in this screed used to just really turn me off to the character I saw him playing.
But a good friend enlightened me one night on the path that led Mr. Chong to where we see him now.
Just a quick recap, the man was born in 1938 in Canada of all places, making him a spry 77 years old today. His father raised their family on just $50 a week, and by the age of 16, young Tommy had dropped out of Crescent Heights High School in Alberta – “just before they were going to throw me out” as he tells it.
Armed with a guitar and a mop of messy hair, Chong left home and parlayed a half-baked music career into ownership of a nightclub in 1963, which he named “Blue Balls”. Chong tried to change the name of his band to “Four Niggers and a Chink”, which almost broke them up altogether, before settling on the name “Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers”.
Reenergized, the band was briefly signed to legendary Motown Records and even had a Chong-written single peak at #29 on the Billboard Top 100 Chart in 1965. Jimi Hendrix was said to have played with the band as well, but was allegedly booted out because his guitar solos were too long and too loud!
On the band’s first tour stop, an up-and-coming family of talented musicians calling themselves “The Jackson 5” opened for Chong and his buds, which led to them introducing the relatively unknown pop group to the brass at Motown Records, essentially launching the career of Michael Jackson.
It was a few short years later, in the early 1970’s when Chong would meet Cheech Marin, and introduce the world to “Cheech & Chong”, everyone’s favorite potheads…well, almost everyone.
Maybe it is the alphabetical order in which their names were always listed, or maybe it was Tommy Chong’s deliberately slow stoner drawl, but most fans of the duo, whether they realize it or not, automatically assume that Cheech was always “in charge”, or was what was left of the “brains of the operation”, but that is not necessarily true.
Those who spent time with the two in the early days tell stories of Cheech sweeping the floors at Chong’s already established nightclub, as he tried to make a life for himself in Canada after dodging the Vietnam draft back in the U.S.
Of course, we all know of the success that they eventually enjoyed throughout the 1970’s and into the 80’s with their Grammy Award winning movies and comedic audio releases.
The two went their separate ways in 1985, citing creative differences, and have only recently begun to make public appearances together.
1985… the cannabis scene in America sure was a whole lot different back then, and even though the “stoner” stereotype that they sparked together over the years is not what I like to be compared to, nobody can deny the bravery that Cheech & Chong had for pushing the envelope (or the Ziploc) as hard as they did.
But now it is 2015, and the massive strides that have been made in cannabis reform across this country have not been made on the backs of semi-funny comedy sketches, but on the validity of undeniable scientific data that shows that cannabis is not only among the least harmful “controlled substances”, but that when used properly can have seemingly countless substantial medical benefits too.
That brings us to where I personally stand today with the idea of Tommy Chong representing this movement.
In June of 2012, Chong told the world that he was battling a form of prostate cancer, which he implied had been troubling him for the past three years.
Just a month later in July, he made another announcement to say that he was “99% cancer-free” thanks to a daily regimen of cannabis extracted hash oil. He unabashedly let the world know that his chosen method of medicating was right up his rear end, in the form of a pot-laced suppository.
As late as March of 2015, Chong was telling Hashbar.tv that he was still making his own suppositories out of BHO (butane hash oil) and storing them in his fridge. Now, I’m not a proctologist, and I have never played one in a B-grade 80’s movie, but none of that sounds very “medical” to me.
These days, Tommy Chong is back on the suddenly much more lucrative cannabis scene, endorsing the highest bidding brands and posing for selfies with dabbed out millennials too jaded/faded to even recognize how legendary the man truly is.
Unfortunately, in June of this year, Chong sadly announced that his cancer was back, and this time was in his rectum. Instead of pushing his praise of pot on the media like before, Chong actually blamed the same suppositories that he claimed once saved his life, for now once again putting it at the utmost risk.
Chong told Access Hollywood, “When you go into your orifice you’ve got to clinically know what you’re doing with it. I put suppositories up there and I don’t know how they did the oil and so on, and so now I found a laboratory where they test and they make sure that the oil that they give you to inject and everything else is pharmaceutically correct, it’s pure. When they legalize the weed here they’re going to have all these safeguards in place so that when you buy your oil it will be properly identified.”
Lesson of the day: Know what you are putting up your butt.
As a cancer survivor myself, I wish Mr. Chong the speediest and most painless and thorough recovery possible, and then I ask that he please stop publicly talking about medical marijuana altogether.
Looking towards surgery to remove the rectal tumor threatening his life, Chong is still joking about getting a new “tie-dye” butthole…now that’s funny Tommy!
But the battle to win the hearts and minds of those still skeptical about the healing powers of the cannabis plant is only made more difficult when the man commanding the spotlight uses his 15 minutes for a few more jokes, instead of sticking to the proven science.
I personally feel that if you could round up every pot-hating prohibitionist, and even those people who may be curious but still skeptical, you’d find that an incredibly small percentage of them would have that opinion swayed towards legalization by anything that Tommy Chong has to say these days.
None of that detracts from or diminishes the trail that he blazed for all cannabis lovers at a time when nobody else was. So, kill cancer again, Mr. Chong. Then kick back, relax, roll one up and let the next generation of cannabis advocates take the wheel.
Written by: Jack Daniels @thepridefulscribe