“The government always used to say, ‘We don’t know the real bad effects of marijuana. We’ve never been able to test it,'” Tommy Chong says in the perma-high drawl that made him a counterculture legend as half of Cheech and Chong. “Well, I’m a walking guinea pig. I’ve been testing it for well over 50 years. I came in fifth on Dancing With the Stars at 76. This old stoner waltzed right by professional athletes because of the marijuana.”
In the decade since the comedian spent nine months in jail for sending bongs across state lines in 2004, Chong has become more active than ever in weed advocacy. Today, he is hanging out in his Los Angeles office early in the morning before going to the gym to speak to Rolling Stone about how legal marijuana has found itself in a state of limbo in our nation’s capital.
Last year, Washington, D.C. citizens voted in a law that decriminalized weed in a way similar to how Colorado, Alaska and Washington state have done so, but a last-minute provision by Republicans – prohibiting the District from using tax dollars to “enact” the bill – has limited its efficacy. Adults are allowed to possess a maximum of two ounces of pot and grow up to six marijuana plants but the law prohibits its sale and regulation, according to The Washington Post.
Chong finds the whole situation absurd, if not for the fact it seems behind the times. “It’s the pot that opened my mind 20 years ago,” he says. “When I got high for the first time, when I was 18 years old, I got visions of how one could prosper in this world. Everything just got so clear.” Besides, Chong says, pot isn’t that dangerous: “You can’t OD on marijuana,” he says. “People have tried.” He laughs.
What’s your take on the current legal-weed situation in Washington, D.C.?
Typical Washington. You can smoke it, but you can’t buy it and you can’t sell it. It’s so stupid. These guys are so lame. It’s a money game. It’s all about a paycheck for Washington, and the rich people are getting people in office that’ll keep everybody’s mind on everything else but raising taxes.
So you think that this legislation was written in a way to distract people?
Yes, totally. Looking at the political situation, it’s self-serving for so many people, including the so-called righteous right. People are just doing things just for money.
Are there any circumstances in which the government should restrict marijuana use?
They can’t. We’ve proven that. Look at the little kid with epilepsy. If the law was in effect, the mom would go to jail for giving a minor the drug. There’s no restrictions. You can’t patent a plant; it’s a gift for everybody. The earth belongs to the Lord and the fullness within. No one can own it.
Marijuana is a perfect medicine. It replaces so many dangerous psychotic medicines that we’re giving kids to calm them down. It’s a safe sleep aid. It’s been proven to kill cancer cells, and that alone should be put on a whole different pedestal. And you can see the problem there: Because it does cure cancer, it threatens all of these expensive cancer procedures, like the chemotherapy and all of these drugs that aren’t covered by insurance and that cost people a ton of money.