If there were a Mount Rushmore of stoners, Bob Marley, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson and Tommy Chong would proudly be on display. EW sat down with Grammy Award-winning comedian, activist and stoner legend Tommy Chong this week to discuss his views on cannabis regulation, 6-foot bong rips, his battle with cancer, the unveiling of “Chong’s Choice” and his comedy partner, Cheech Marin, doing too much weed at the wrong time.
You can catch Chong live when he speaks Sunday, April 24, at the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference at the downtown Eugene Hilton. Visit oregonmbc.com for tickets.
What makes you such a happy person?
I love to laugh. When I was a little guy, I remember, I just loved to laugh. I was a dancer when I was real young. I’d go to dances and the black people were the ones that could dance the best. So I ended up dancing with a black girl and she became my girlfriend and then I got in with the crowd. And that’s a culture that loves to laugh. I mean, you know, from Redd Foxx to Richard Pryor to Chris Rock, I mean their sense of humor is so beautiful and I’ve always had that hip sense of humor. And my dad, also. He was a short, Chinese truck driver. You know, he was a veteran from the second world war. And he was a tough little guy but he also had crazy friends and he loved to laugh too. So it was all in the family.
I’ve heard stories from friends who say their weed was so strong it made Snoop Dogg take a knee or George Clinton invite them on tour. What’s the most ridiculous story you’ve heard about yourself?
Well, it’s not really me — it’s Cheech [laughs]. Cheech always has a habit of doing too much at the wrong time. And he’s been doing it just lately, too. We get a lot of free weed, you know, and I shared a lot with Cheech. One guy gave us a syringe full of Rick Simpson oil and Cheech thought it would be a good idea to do the whole syringe. He was cooking a meal at the time and he went up to his office and he saw the syringe there and … he put the whole syringe in his mouth. I’ve never heard a story where projectile vomiting was so funny. And then he just did the same thing. He was in Israel with his Russian wife doing the tour thing. He did the same thing. It was a gummy bear loaded with weed. He put it in his mouth and chewed it while he was visiting the Wailing Wall. He started hallucinating against the Wailing Wall and then he started projectile vomiting in the cab. And one time while we were on the road, I walked in to his room and he was in bed! We were having a party. We had a party room; we always had a party room. And I couldn’t find Cheech. I walked in to his room and he’s in bed with the covers up to his neck and he’s shaking like he’s gonna die or something. And there’s this weird looking hippie at the end of the bed. It was just weird. And I said, “What happened?” He said, “I don’t know, man. I gave him some of this. You want some?” I said, “Ah, no. No thank you.”
Was it like the time you took a 6-foot bong rip?
Oh, oh, oh, that was killer. That was at Snoop Dogg’s show. Yeah, it was a 6-foot bong. Oh my God. I had to be carried home that night. That was crazy, yeah. That brought tears to my eyes.
Tell me something that people might not know about you?
Well, a lot of people didn’t know I was a dancer until I was on Dancing With the Stars. But they know now. I’m, um … let’s see. Oh, I’m really a lightweight when it comes to weed. You know? Yeah, I’m very lightweight. Weed will last me forever, for years. I give so much away because I take just a little crumb and I put it in. I make bongs, you know; that’s my hobby. I make ‘em out of antique kombucha bottles. And uh, and they’re the perfect bong because you can clean ‘em, sparkling in seconds, you know. And I like a clean bong. And so I’ll do a little hit. I’ll do a tiny, little nugget. Just about an eighth of a nugget. Just enough for about four or five tokes. And then I’m good. And if I need more, then I’ll go down in the basement or — I got a bong in every room of my house so I’ll stop and do another hit. And that’ll be it. That’s all I need.
You have said you take a lot of sabbaticals from weed. Do you just take a few days, a couple weeks?
It depends. You know, if I’m going to jail or if I’m on probation and they’re drug testing me, then I’ll take the time to quit.
Well, you’ve only been to jail once, right?
Yeah, well, uh, one time. But that was like a sabbatical for 3 years. You know, and uh, I stopped. Since I had my cancer operation, though, I’ve been, thank God, smoking every day. You know, I’m back to every day now. But, yeah, yeah, I’m pretty, uh — I’m medicated. That’s for sure.
You altered your diet for the first round of cancer. Are you doing a similar plan?
No. I don’t know. I was on this holistic plan for 5 years and I ended up getting rectal cancer, so I’m not that thrilled with that fucking diet. But I realized that sugar is bad for you, so I try to curtail my sugar intake. And I try to eat more — you know, get very green. You know, with the cold-pressed juice. I’m not fanatical in any way anymore, you know. Especially now, because fuck it, I’m too old to bullshit it and worry about it now. You know, being Chinese and growing up rather poor, I never had a food issue, because we never had food. When you’re poor, you’ll eat whatever the fuck you can, when you can, you know? And we lived in the country, so there was no McDonald’s or Taco Bell anywhere close ever. You know, but the closest thing to food for you was the neighbor’s garden. And that’s how I managed my diet. One thing about my parents, you know, I never went hungry — that I can remember. I got hungry when I was on the road as a musician, but I liked it. Just like my operation; when I finished my operation I lost 35 pounds. But instead of moaning about it, I said, “Ah, cool.” So now I got abs. Look, I got abs. I got no legs but who gives a shit — I got abs.
Here in Oregon, we’re still hashing out the rules with legal weed, and they’re talking about separating medical and recreational cannabis — having different dispensaries for each. What do you think about that?[Laughs] That’s so stupid. They gotta realize that all marijuana use is medical. It’s just like if you take aspirin. If it gets you high or cures your headache, it’s still aspirin. So it’s usually meant to fix your headache. Well, marijuana is used by people with epilepsy, Alzheimer’s; you name the disease and marijuana is helping it. It helps as a sleep aid, you know, everything. So all marijuana use is medical. So they gotta get their heads out of their asses, these people. Don’t push ’em and don’t bug ’em; let ’em go through their little dance. Because the truth is, they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. When they put the law against marijuana, this is part of the problem that they have. They’re doing something so contrary to human existence. You know, here’s a plant that was given to us by our Creator for our health and happiness — the pursuit of happiness. And marijuana makes you happy. Now how do you regulate fucking happiness? You have to regulate alcohol, because it’ll kill you. But marijuana? We’ve been smoking marijuana and the cops have been smoking it, and the airline pilots have been smoking it, and the football players have been smoking it, and the doctors and the lawyers and the judges — everybody in our society has been smoking pot. All they’re trying to do is find some kind of hoop they can make you jump through so they can charge you for. That’s all they’re trying to do is get a handle on this thing and the truth is, they’re not needed. All we need is the law to be changed so you don’t go to jail for having it. So you don’t need to worry about being near schools; it’s not alcohol. It doesn’t create bad behavior, by anybody. It’s the opposite. It calms everybody down. It makes people sleepy. And that’s one thing this world needs — people need to get more sleep.
What do you think about driving under the influence of cannabis?
Well, the way you test it is, “Well, what’s he doing?” If he’s breaking the law, then give him a ticket. And if there’s no crime, then don’t fuck with him.
What if they’re clearly intoxicated from cannabis?
Well, yeah, then they get a ticket for being too stoned. You can be behind the wheel of a car, you know, but you’re not going anywhere … and you can get a DUI for not going anywhere. But if you have a good lawyer, then that’s out the window. That’s why more poor people are incarcerated for pot, because they couldn’t afford a lawyer and that’s why most white people or affluent people never see any jail time or anything because they got a lawyer that will come up and say, “Uh, your honor, this is bullshit.” The trouble is with these laws, they’re designed to have, you know, who’s enforcing the law to have a way for them to make extra money. It’s all over the world. It’s corruption.
When did you first become an advocate for cannabis?
It came when I got busted. But I got busted for bongs… [referring to his 2003 arrest in Operation Pipe Dreams; Chong took a plea deal to save his wife and son from prosecution and spent 9 months in jail.]
You’re unveiling your latest product, Chong’s Choice pre-rolls. Is this something we’re going to see in Eugene?
Absolutely. You’re gonna see my gorgeous face all over the place with a big joint in my mouth.
This is developed from one of your favorite strains, OG Kush, correct?
Yeah, yeah … yeah. You know, every strain has a different use and a different taste and I’m still looking for the perfect strain. I’ll die in my grave looking.