Interview by Old Hippie
Introduction, Research, Hyperlinks, and Annotations by David Fiedler
Tommy Chong has been around so long that he’s a cannabis icon, not just to baby boomers who fondly remember the Cheech and Chong albums and movies, but also to the zillions of fans of That 70s Show, where he starred as Leo (an old hippie who sells weed1). More recently, Chong appeared on Dancing With The Stars, as well as doing voice acting in animated TV shows and even children’s films (Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Zootopia) over the decades.
While some of today’s cannabis activists have derided the Cheech and Chong culture because of their perpetuation of negative stereotypes, it’s important to remember that those albums and movies were all for fun, and that – at the time – those stereotypes did not even exist. While prohibitionists have indeed attempted to use Cheech and Chong movies as “proof that stoners are lazy and stupid”, the joke’s really on them: Cheech and Chong are actors, no matter how much marijuana they smoked in real life, and “Up In Smoke” is no more a documentary of stoners than “Airplane!” represents a true look at life in airline cockpits.
In 2003 Chong became caught up in two American investigations, code-named Operation Pipe Dreams and Operation Headhunter, which tried to trace drug traffic and users through businesses selling drug paraphernalia, mostly bongs. Operation Pipe Dream was run from Pittsburgh. US Attorney for Western Pennsylvania Mary Beth Buchanan oversaw the case. The estimated cost of Operation Pipe Dream was over $12 million and included the resources of 2,000 law enforcement officers. Fifty-five companies that sold drug paraphernalia over the Internet were the subject of the investigation, and Nice Dreams was one of them.
Chong was charged for his part in financing and promoting Chong Glass/Nice Dreams, a company started by his son Paris. His case never went to trial, as his attorney negotiated a plea agreement with the US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania’s Office. He admitted to distributing 7,500 bongs and water pipes on the Internet through Nice Dreams, a family company. Chong agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute drug paraphernalia in exchange for non-prosecution of his wife, Shelby, and his son, Paris. Chong cooperated with the government and was the first of the Operation Pipe Dreams defendants to plead guilty.
Then we have Chong’s incarceration and cancer. In the interview, Tommy talks about the prison that was built over oil fields, and that’s true, but it understates the case. The entire town of Taft, where the prison is located, is actually located over the oil fields, as well as several nearby towns. When you factor in the toxic waste dump, it’s easier to understand why lots of people in that area have become suspicious that it was located in a poor Hispanic area, and why many babies have died or been born with mortal defects there.
By the way, here’s where the prison is located, and here’s the dump. You can easily zoom out, and turn the satellite/Google Earth data on, and see how the dump is right up the valley from the prison, so that the air will blow straight down there under the right conditions.
The facts revealed in this interview will likely surprise and even upset some people, but it’s good to remember that Tommy Chong is still with us, and that there are undoubtedly few people on the planet as committed to cannabis as he is.
OH: Hello Mr. Tommy Chong! How are you?
TC: I’m very well, thank you. How are you?
OH: Okay! I’m really happy to talk to you for Beyond Chronic today. First of all…how is your health, man?
TC: Good! Yeah, I just got a clean bill. Just had my blood test, everything’s good, looks like I’m cancer-free at the moment., so that’s good news.
OH: That’s awesome news! Since we’re mostly a medical website, can you give us some details about how you were using cannabis for your cancer and when you started using it medically?
TC: Well, I’ve been using cannabis, you know, for many, many years now, over 50 years. And I’m not a huge smoker, but I smoke it when I got it, you know, one of those kind of guys. A few years ago, I got put in [prison] for bongs…that was in ’03. And I think that’s where the cancer started, because the [prison] was built near a toxic waste dump near Bakersfield, over an old oil field, where they used to hold the oil. And they have a thing there called “Valley Fever“, which is a wasting disease. When I was incarcerated, every time the wind blew, they would make all the inmates go inside because of the bad quality of the air.
And so it was during that time, you know, when I got out of jail, then I started having symptoms and then I went to the doctor, and I found out I had prostate cancer. It’s a slow-acting cancer, so after a biopsy and a few consultations with different experts, we decided to not do anything. And then move forward to around 2013 or 2014, I got asked to be on a show called Dancing With The Stars, and it was physically very taxing, a lot of stress. And I think that’s where I contracted the cancer of the rectum.
And up until then, for my prostate cancer, I was doing a very holistic diet, you know. A lot of green, a lot of vegetables. I quit eating meat, I quit drinking alcohol, and I think it helped. But when I was diagnosed with the rectal cancer, that was right after Dancing With The Stars. I had a choice of going strictly with the cannabis – which I was talked out of. I have a lot of friends who are doctors, and they talked me out of it. They said that no one has survived rectal cancer with marijuana. So then I opted for the operation, and the chemo treatment, and the radiation…as well as the cannabis.
TMI Paragraph Warning
Now, I think more than anything, the cannabis has helped me heal, because once I was operated on – you know, it was a five hour operation – and they closed off the rectum, and they gave me a colostomy bag. And I lost some 30-odd pounds, almost 40 pounds. So I was quite skinny. I went down to almost 130. And so I ended up coming back from that.
1 Old Hippie wants his readers to know that he has never sold weed himself – DF