Monday, April 24, 2006

Tommy Chong addresses NORML conference

The Times-Standard

San Francisco - Actor and comedian Tommy Chong entertained more than 500 National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws conference-goers Friday.

”If more people were stoned there would be less violence in the world,” Chong said.

Chong was introduced by NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre.

”It was Tom Chong the man that was wrongly sentenced to nine months in jail when everyone else paid a fine,” St. Pierre said. “I'm so proud and happy that Tommy is joining us today.”

Chong took the stage to a standing ovation.

”I would like to thank what's his name,” Chong joked.

He began by talking about his time in prison, saying the rumors about prison are wrong.

”It doesn't hurt,” Chong said. “But it does hurt when the government is doing it to you.”

He talked about politics, too.

”I know Dick Cheney's Secret Service guys smoke pot,” Chong said. “The reason I know that is I sold them bongs.”

He insinuated that President Bush was on methamphetamines.

”The dangerous thing about tweakers is they can take things apart but they can't put them back together again,” Chong said. “That's what George Bush has done to this country.”

Chong described when law enforcement officials raided his home as part of Operation Pipe Dreams.

”When they raided my home they asked me, 'Do you have any drugs in here?'” Chong said. “Of course I do.”

In prison he was enrolled in a drug education class.

”I signed up, I wanted to learn,” Chong said. “I ended up teaching it.”

Marijuana wasn't the only drug Chong talked about.

”Coke (cocaine) karma is the worst,” Chong said. “There's nothing worse than a coke-head talking to another coke-head.”

Chong appeared to get nostalgic when he talked about his former comedy partner Cheech Marin.

”When Cheech and I broke up it was weird,” Chong said. “I didn't know we were broken up for four years. I went to the last Cheech and Chong movie and I wasn't in it.”

At the conclusion of Chong's speech there was a showing of a new documentary about Chong called “AKA Chong.”

As soon as the lights were dimmed lighters started to spark and the banquet room at the Golden Gateway Holiday Inn began to fill with smoke. About half-way through the movie hotel security turned on all the lights and ordered everyone out of the banquet room because they were concerned that the smoke would set off the smoke alarms.

Medical marijuana was the topic of Friday's panel discussions.

Jeff Jones, executive director of the Oakland Cannabis Buyer's Cooperative, discussed dealing with federal law enforcement's involvement in medical marijuana dispensaries.

”We have to see it coming and we have to be able to move and shake,” Jones said.

He talked about the growing number of dispensaries and that it's overwhelming federal law enforcement.

”There's no way they can keep up with us,” Jones said.

People from all over the United States are attending the conference, like Tammera Halphen from Houston, who is part of the Texas medical marijuana effort and Rodolfo Rivera, a student from Florida Atlantic University who is part of the NORML chapter on his campus. Rivera's NORML chapter was recently featured in High Times Magazine as the “Freedom Fighters” of the month.

The conference was also attended by people from Japan.

Humboldt County was represented at the conference. A woman selling T-shirts and other merchandise trying to raise money for a Bayside resident who needs a medical procedure. The woman, who only wanted to be known as a family friend, said Miranda Kelly, 21, has a “serious lung condition” and needs a transplant. She raised $500 Thursday, the first day of the conference, and had her donation jar filling up Friday. A fund-raiser is planned for the Bayside Grange May 6. More information on Kelly can be found at .

The conference is scheduled to conclude today, with panel discussions focussing on the drug war.

By Chris Durant


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