An Interview with Tommy and Shelby Chong
The Art of Mary Jane recently sat down with marijuana culture and comedy icon Tommy Chong and his wife, comedian and actress Shelby Chong, to talk about life, laughter, and legalization.
The Art of Mary Jane: What was the most defining moment in your life, Tommy?
It was when I went to jail in 2003 for selling bongs. Before I went to jail I was just a comedian that did a lot of bits on pot, but after I got out I became a pot activist and I am definitely trying to get it legal now.
MJ:† When did you really start pushing to legalize marijuana?
The big push was during jail (Tommy Chong was arrested in 2003 and served nine months for the sale of bongs online). I just thought it was legal, I just thought it was one of those ďdonít ask, donít tellĒ laws, you know, because our past five presidents have known that pot should be legal. They keep it illegal for political purposes, and they just canít bring themselves to get rid of that one law. After I got arrested for the bongs and I saw that they were serious, it was time for me to get serious, so I have been pushing for legalization ever since.
MJ: What do you think would be the best plan of action for freeing the weed?
The easiest, quickest, and I think the best way is for Obama to write an executive order to reschedule pot from schedule one to a schedule two. He doesnít need congress or anybody involved. All he has to do is write an executive order saying that studies have shown marijuana does have medical uses and therefore it should be taken from a schedule one to a schedule two available by prescription only.
MJ: It seems as though the peace movement is coming back – why do you think this is so important?
The peace movement has never gone away. Man has been trying to find peace ever since he could think about war. What happens is that movements disappear from the public eye, and what youíre seeing is that the media is now focusing back on peace again and the media really creates it, the movements that you see in Egypt and the Middle East they are spontaneous and they are just from everyday people that have access to cell phones and computers. Once people realize that they have been fed a lot of hogwash by these few people that control all the wealth then they rebel. Thatís the natural order of things so the peace movement really is the truth movement. The people are learning the truth and theyíre not standing by and letting people rob them anymore.
MJ: Being the legend that you are, what do you think we should do as a society to become more open to the legalization of marijuana?
The American society is the only society that I can speak to, and what we have to do is elect people that will bend to the will of the people. We have to elect leaders that will stand up for what is right and true and not what is politically correct. We have to get people that are not beholden to big business. We have to get more like the Canadian government. Canadians separate the judicial from the parliamentary from the political and we donít have that in this country. In our judicial system, the Republicans bring Republican judges and Democrats bring Democrat judges. Our whole political system is subverted by partisanship, so what we have to do somehow is find a way for our political system to be more honest.
MJ: So what is your favorite of all activities in your off time?
I would say dancing tango with my wife would be number one, thatís my favorite thing to do – or hold my wife real close to my body for extended periods of time.
MJ: How long do you think it will be before they legalize medical marijuana use and recreational use federally?
Iím guessing it will happen in the last term of Obama. Obama is going to win the next term and then when he leaves office I think thatís going to be his legacy. I think before he leaves he will sign an executive order just like I described earlier and then it is going to legalize it all federally if not sooner. I would say just when he is leaving office that will be one of the last acts he does.
MJ:† What would you say is the biggest barrier to transforming hemp to fuel our cars?
The biggest barrier is this stupid pot law we have. If we never had this pot law we could grow hemp. Hemp grows better than any plant on the planet, itís got more oil than all the plants and it has so many more uses to it. I think the reason itís illegal is that the pharmaceutical companies canít find a way to harness its power and therefore itís hard to tax. Itís fool proof – you canít own it -itís so simple. Henry Ford had a hemp car running on diesel fuel made by the hemp plant, that probably put a big scare into all the oil companies. The biggest barrier is human ignorance.
MJ:† Tell us about your project, the electric car that you built – what is that all about?
My electric car, which is a 1946 Oldsmobile four-door sedan, for that Iím in the process of tracking down a hybrid. I had it all electric but I didnít have the right batteries, so Iím going to install a diesel hybrid motor that is going to be running on hemp and electrical power.
MJ: Are you planning on going on any tours and will you be in any upcoming movies?
The Cheech and Chong tour was officially over a couple of months ago and weíre just doing a little mop up operation now and the odd casino gig. Iím almost finished writing a movie ďCheech and Chong Up In Smoke 30 Years LaterĒ. Iím hoping that will take up our time for the next couple of years because we want to do three Cheech and Chong movies and then weíll see from there.† Cheech and I are still on tour, weíre kind of quasi-working and then we got an animated project coming out and then I have a plan for an art show. A lot of good things that are up in the air.