Tommy Chong Hoping For a Pardon From Obama

By David Konow 09/20/16

Chong served time for a felony in 2003 after pleading guilty to selling drug paraphernalia across state lines.

Tommy Chong Hoping For a Pardon From Obama

Forming in the late sixties, Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong became counterculture heroes for over a decade. Together they pioneered stoner comedy, making their film debut with the classic 1978 film Up in Smoke.

The duo built up a long list of comedy albums and movies until they broke up in the mid-eighties. Both went on to pursue solo careers—Cheech focused on movies and television, and Chong formed his own bong company, Chong Glass, which got busted by the feds in 2003 for selling paraphernalia across state lines (a felony offense).

The Toronto Sun reports that Chong was part of then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s “Operation Pipe Dreams” crackdown on drug paraphernalia. Chong pleaded guilty in order to save his wife and son, who were his business partners, from being prosecuted.

"Authorities basically entrapped me and my company by asking that we ship bongs across state lines," Chong told the Hollywood Reporter recently. "So when we did make a sale, they immediately arrested me and charged me with using the post office to sell illegal paraphernalia.”

He was sentenced to nine months behind bars, where he shared a cell with the Wolf of Wall Street himself, Jordan Belfort. (Chong reportedly encouraged Belfort to write his best-selling memoir.)

Chong told the Hollywood Reporter his company lost close to a million dollars from his arrest “including $150,000 in cash from other sales, like T-shirts.”

The 78-year-old comedian and "ganjapreneur" is hoping for a pardon from President Obama to clear the felony from his record. As WJLA reports, Chong launched a petition for his pardon, which has so far garnered nearly 50,000 signatures. The comedian hopes he will get his pardon before Obama leaves office in January.  

Chong feels he has a good shot because "Obama has admitted to smoking pot," he told the Hollywood Reporter. So far, the president has commuted 673 prison sentences and pardoned 70 people during his time in office, many of them for non-violent drug offenses. 

With the world clearly having a more tolerant attitude towards marijuana than when he got busted, Chong said he's pleased with all the support his petition has been getting. “I represent a nice portion of the community which is growing, our constituency is really growing with all the legalization going on. I’m in a really good position,” he said. 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.