There are plenty of reasons why sports and entertainment memorabilia aficionados will be flocking to the Great Canadian Collector Show.
Autograph sessions with retired Blue Jays Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield and former NHLers Darryl Sittler, Gerry Cheevers, Brad Park, Eddie Shack, and Billy Smith will stir up memories of their bygone triumphs. A live auction and appearances by DJ Qualls, Ty Ollson, and the Hanson brothers will also pack people in to the Harbour Convention Centre on Sunday (February 9).
But for some, the main attraction will undoubtedly be keynote speaker Tommy Chong, a civil-rights hero to cannabis users who will be returning to the city he called home in the 1960s.
"The one thing that I'm preaching is that all marijuana use is medical," the famed stoner comedian and star of Cheech & Chong movies told the Straight by phone from his home in Los Angeles.
Moreover, Chong said it's a "disgrace" that governments have tried to separate weed into two categories—recreational and medical—so they can extract more tax revenue.
Chong made the comment shortly after the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by 11 local pot shops to remain open after being refused licences by the City of Vancouver.
According to Chong, governments deliberately make it "almost impossible to open up a pot shop" because that fuels the war on drugs, requiring more expenditures on police.
"So they put you back on the street because you're not going to not sell your product," he said. "You have the customers. Then they come along and bust you like they do—like they've been doing since the '30s."
Chong has firsthand experience with this type of persecution.
The 2006 documentary a/k/a Tommy Chong delved into how he ended up being thrown in jail in a Drug Enforcement Administration dragnet after his films ridiculed narcs working for the government.
Chong was the only person without a prior conviction to be sent to jail in the sting operation—and this was because his son was running a company that sold bongs over the Internet.
"Through it all, Chong is an articulate, wryly honest observer, quite a contrast to his weed-addled screen persona," Straight reviewer Janet Smith wrote. "His candid interviews at home and in jail make a punchy mix with clips of political posturing and insights from a host of supportive celebs, from Bill Maher to Peter Coyote."
Chong said that the recent enforcement actions in Vancouver are nothing new.
"We have to transition past that mentality—and in time we will," he emphasized. "But my mantra, again, is all marijuana use is medical."
When asked what "all marijuana use is medical" meant for Tommy Chong, he replied that he's now cancer-free after past bouts with prostate cancer and rectal cancer.
"If it wasn't for pot, I wouldn't be talking to you, because it helped ease my mind," Chong said. "And when your mind is at ease, then the immune system kicks in."
But he's not one for simply relying on weed and ignoring conventional approaches. For him, cannabis helped him get through the treatments.
"You get high, put on earphones, put on some good music, and then they can radiate to their heart's content—radiate, chemo—whatever you have to do," Chong said. "You're killing a disease. It's like you're putting out a fire.
"You don't mess with it. You don't mess with cancer."
He added that he's in good shape and works out all the time, thanks to weed. And he avoids alcohol, except for the occasional sip of Retsina wine. And the pot has helped him spiritually.
The only bummer, according to Chong, was having to get a colostomy bag after rectal-cancer surgery.
"But again, there's an upside to everything," he quipped. "My upside is that I don't have to change my underwear as much as I used to."
Anyone who pays attention to Chong's Twitter feed knows that he can't resist ripping the president of the United States. In fact, Chong compares him to a kleptomaniac who can't resist the urge to steal.
That's why Chong has been predicting for years that Trump will end up in a jail cell. And the comedian admitted that he lost a $1,000 bet to his son that Trump was going to be bounced out of office through the impeachment process.
"You know, we're watching The Apprentice President," Chong declared. "And of course, it's not going to end the way I thought it was going to end.
"It's going to end with his ass voted so far out of office that his first stop will be in the Southern District of New York answering sex charges brought against him by [his former lawyer] Michael Cohen. That's Trump's future."