Tommy Chong a casualty of war on drugs

Comedian Tommy Chong has felt the sting of the Bush administration’s war on all things related to marijuana. For Chong, the nightmare began in February 2003, when police helicopters and a bunch of agents with dogs launched an early-morning raid on his suburban Los Angeles home.

In the acclaimed documentary a/k/a Tommy Chong, Chong says the cops first told him he wasn’t under arrest. In fact, they were busting his Internet bong-selling business as part of a massive U.S. government crackdown called Operation Pipe Dreams. After U.S. drug agents tricked staff at the family company into shipping bongs illegally to Pennsylvania, Chong pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute drug paraphernalia in order to spare his son and wife from prosecution. He was sentenced to nine months in jail on the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

“The ultimate aim was to bring me down,” Chong says in the film, which explores how U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan tried to link Chong’s film and comedy work to drug abuse in America. That attracted outrage from civil libertarians, who claimed this violated Chong’s constitutional right to freedom of speech.

The case turned Chong into a symbol of the absurdity of the war on drugs. In a recent interview with Straight contributor Guy MacPherson, Chong said that he was operating in a “gray area, much like Marc Emery is now”, because of an archaic law. Chong noted that Barack Obama’s vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden, wrote the law that banned shipping drug paraphernalia through the mail. Despite this, Chong expressed optimism that he will clear his record as a result of the U.S. presidential election.

“The first thing I’m gonna do when Obama gets sworn in is get my record expunged—my felony conviction,” Chong said. “There’s a way to do it. What you do [is] change your plea from guilty to innocent, and if they accept the plea”¦then they just wipe it off and say, ”˜Okay, you’re no longer a felon.’ ”

Vancouver pot-seed vendor Emery, on the other hand, isn’t feeling nearly as optimistic about Obama’s election. That’s because Obama appears set to appoint Eric Holder as attorney general. Holder, like Biden, has been a supporter of the war on drugs and also served as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.

During the first three years of the Clinton administration, 1.5 million Americans were arrested on marijuana charges. By 1999, that increased to 4.2 million. “It was the largest increase ever, and this guy was the deputy attorney general at the time,” Emery said.

He and his two Vancouver coaccused, Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, face charges of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, conspiracy to sell seeds, and conspiracy to launder money, in an indictment filed in Seattle in 2005. Emery said the U.S. government is claiming that by sending seeds to U.S. citizens, he entered into a conspiracy with the buyers to grow marijuana. “On [The] Lou Dobbs [Show], for example—we have the footage—they said I was the largest producer of marijuana in the history of the U.S. justice system,” he said. “They’re attributing me with 1.1 million pounds of marijuana—100,000 pounds a year.”

As for the money-laundering charge, Emery alleged that profits went to charities and activist groups. “So the money-laundering is actually all of the political stuff I did that I’m kind of proud of,” he quipped.

The extradition hearing is scheduled to start next June in B.C. Supreme Court. Emery claimed that MPs could pass a resolution ordering Attorney General Rob Nicholson not to extradite the trio. Emery emphasized that under the Extradition Act, Nicholson can intervene in the process at any time and state that Canada will not send him to the United States. “What I would recommend is they charge me in Canada with what they want to charge in the United States, and we’ll see what a judge here thinks about that,” Emery said.



Ik Ben Niemand

Nov 27, 2008 at 7:12am

On this Thanksgiving, I am THANKFUL that Marc Emery is a real person who did what he KNEW was right! His courage and determination was felt from the west coast where many of his strains were grown by the sick and dying as medicine, to the East Coast where the sacramental use of the Sacred Sacrament he supplied was used, even the midwest, where his seeds were used for the peaceful introspective intoxicating effects as opposed to the ravaging effects of demon alcohol!
Marc Emery is a HERO! Greg (MM) Williams is a kind thoughtful individual of the HIGHEST caliber and while I have never met Michelle, the company she keeps speaks volumes!
Canada NEEDS to break the bond of slavery that the US forces upon them! My Thanksgiving prayer is that next year, The BC3 sit at the Thanksgiving table, free and clear of the US travesty of Justice that hangs over them today!


Mar 30, 2009 at 2:26pm

This is a message to all DEA and law enforcement agencies and individuals. The confederacy is resolved. America is ready to revolt. I amongst others, are awaiting your admission of guilt of the act of playing a pawn for the alcohol, tobacco,prison, and pharmaceutical industries. The people have collected themselves and ascertained all necessary information leading to the exposure of the corruption within the law enforcement and DEA agencies. Many of you should learn from L.E.A.P. and NORML, to name a couple, for, your ignorance in the truth of the issue of CANNABIS is comical. You should feel naive, for 80 million have united in this demand for personal freedom. YOU have united with the AMA Cartel to poison my brothers and sisters with your synthetic cancers in the form of pills. You are killing my people and inhibiting them from being healed, in some cases. It is well advised for you to understand your fallacy and come to terms with AMERICANS being responsible and accountable people. You have declared war on my people, the back bone of this country, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc, thus, I must expose your cause. There are citizens in your agencies and departments waiting for the order to blow the whistle on you. Your hypocritical actions have brought this consequence for you. You will reap that which you have sown. If you think Americans can't stand united, you are in for a rude awakening. You are frantically trying to prohibit this herb only because of its threat of the industries you protect. This is not Israel and psycho-politics has ceased to be effective for your oppression. This is our country. Everyone knows why herb is illegal now. It is quite comical and obvious to everyone. The information age is your enemy. You cannot keep us in the dark anymore, for that is your curse, not ours. In time, you will hide away and forget you ruined so many lives and wasted so much of our money over the protection of pharmaceuticals,tobacco, and alcohol and the death that they provide. The American Medical Association Cartel is finished and the new age of a thinking generation is blooming. Our generation does not lie about actions nor do we smite others for their choices. You have been killing my people, thus, the line has been drawn. I suggest you find a new line of work, unless you understand the truth and believe in personal freedom. You will feel as if your work was for nothing (in the cases of cannabis) for it was. Listen to your older peers (retired agents), for they understand the truth and are not binded by tyrants to enforce a law that simply protects the interests of the tyrannical 'elite' that funnel money into the state of Israel. Peruse the annual causes of death chart if you disagree with anything I say. You are killing my people. I declare high-treason on you, as 80 million + are in accordance with my view.