Pubdate: Sat, 30 Sep 2006
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Section: Pg 35
Copyright: 2006 The Western Star
Author: Lee-Anne Goodman, CP
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


TORONTO - Tommy Chong, one half of the legendary comedy duo Cheech 
and Chong, exudes as much serenity sipping on a cup of coffee in a 
downtown hotel as one might expect from a lifelong pothead.

But three years ago, the Canadian-born Chong had good reason to freak 
out - agents for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency burst into his 
California home and busted him for selling bongs online, the first 
time an obscure law dealing with such offences had ever been enforced.

In his new book "The I Chong: Meditations From the Joint" (Simon and 
Schuster), Chong insists the feds came after him, at the behest of 
the Bush administration, because he'd frequently spoken out against 
the war on terror and the erosion of civil liberties after 9-11.

"I was the first one they'd ever charged under that law," says the 
68-year-old Chong, in Toronto on Monday promoting his book. 
"Symbolically, I represented the antiwar movement. I represented the 
hippies. And they're scared to death of the hippies, because the 
hippies are the ones who stopped the Vietnam War."

That's not just nostalgic bluster from Chong, who was introduced to a 
new generation of fans when he played aging stoner Leo on "That '70s 
Show." Of the 55 people charged under the "Operation Pipe Dreams" 
sweep in early 2003, Chong was one of the very few who was sentenced 
to hard time. Most were sentenced to fines and home detentions.

In last year's documentary "A/k/a Tommy Chong," which premiered at 
the Toronto International Film Festival, comedian and social 
commentator Bill Maher, among many others, accused the U.S. 
government of making an example out of Chong for petty political reasons.

But thanks in part to his spirituality and, undoubtedly, his 
unabashed appreciation of the calming effects of marijuana, Chong 
approached his sentence with good humour. He says he didn't mind his 
nine months in prison because it allowed him to focus primarily on 
writing the book.

"If you're a guy like me, it's not so bad ... I'm an old man, I'm a 
writer and I'm writing my book, I'm Tommy Chong, and I'm doing time 
with my fans," he says. Being Canadian, Chong says, also helped. 
"When you grow up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and spend 20 years 
with Alberta winters, everything else is so easy. Nine months in a 
California jail is nothing compared to nine months of a Canadian 
winter," he says.
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