By David Rheins
I had the pleasure of speaking to cannabis icon Tommy Chong about his latest brand endorsement — Tommy Chong’s Smoke Swipes, how the world has come around to his way of thinking, and his dream getting everyone in America — and the world — stoned.
Q: Good morning Tommy Chong. First of all, thank you for speaking to MJ News Network this morning. We’re huge fans of yours from way back. Speaking of which, you started out as a counterculture cannabis clown, and are now one of the most respected and widely quoted voices of legal pot. How did that happen?
A: Well, I was always on the right track, and it was just a matter of everybody finally caught up with me.
Q: There was a little more than that. You went up the entertainment ladder of success – winning Grammy’s and having successful films — and then you had an encounter with the law that got you more politicized. Or were you always politicized?
A: No, they forced me into that role. I was very happy just being the stoner. They gave me a choice, I could go to jail, or watch my son go to jail for selling bongs, which was legal where we were, and only illegal because of Federal law and the paraphernalia law in Pennsylvania. That act alone, politicized me totally. I became what they wanted me to become or what they thought I was.
Q: That action ricocheted, and the culture caught up, and now what was once counterculture is now mainstream commercial culture. That brings us back to why we’re having this conversation. The Tommy Chong name has become a well-known brand; you’ve associated yourself with a number of commercial products, dispensaries, causes, and politicians — how do you decide what products are right for the Tommy Chong brand?
A: We’re using the shotgun effect. We’re taking on everything. And if it floats, if it catches the public eye, then we won. But if it doesn’t, it is just hit and miss. It’s just like doing a music album, you don’t which song is going to be the hit, until you finish everything. And it is usually the one that you hated the most.
And in this business, it is almost the same thing. You can have some pet projects, but sometimes the simplest one will hit everybody’s imagination and that is the way it has been with this. The weird thing about this business is that there is no downside for me. I like pipes, I like papers, I like bongs, every day is like Christmas for me in this business.
Q: I love it. It is interesting that you bring up Christmas, because MJBA is hosting the first ever “Cannabis Xmas Bazaar on December 6th at Seattle’s Magical Butter Studios. And we’ll be showcasing products like Tommy Chong’s Smoke Swipe — part of a whole commercial suite of products and gift items that will be available to cannabis consumers this holiday season.
Q: Why did you decide to create Tommy Chong Smoke Swipes?
A: It was created by some business guys that had a problem: they’d go to do their 4:20 smoke and come back into the office and everybody knew what they’d been doing. And they realized that their was no product out there that would wipe the smoke off their clothes, and so they developed this swipe.
Later they found out it worked great on tobacco smoke, cigar smoke and other smells like dog smells and so the product really has multi-use besides just making sure that your mother or your grandmother…that you’re not reeking when you come in for Thanksgiving dinner.
Q: Culturally, when the country seems to be going legal. We’ve got now not only Washington and Colorado, but with the recent elections Alaska and Oregon, and the District of Columbia, and cities in Maine and Michigan and throughout the country are moving legal. Why do you think we need something that is going to inhibit pot smoke? It reminds me of the old “Smirnoff leaves you breathless” campaign. You know when we were still feeling the after effects of prohibition.
A: The thing is, it is a smell. And not everybody enjoys that smell. And it also puts you in a category — you know, pothead category. So there are a lot of businessmen types — on Wall Street especially — they smoke up regularly. Or policeman, doctors, lawyers — I know judges who smoke — and they have to go to great lengths to protect their image. It is for professional people who cannot afford to have that pothead image.
Q: Does that mean we won’t be seeing a Tommy Chong line of Cannabis fragrances for those of us who enjoy the smell of sativa in the morning?
A: No, not really. Although I tell you, that is a good market. I could see a woman’s perfume, or especially a man’s cologne.
Q: We could call it ‘Dank Love’
A: Yeah, it is an aphrodisiac. Remember in the movie Annie Hall, she could only make love to Woody if she was high? So the smell, just like the word — when you talk about pot their is a body memory that kicks in — and all of the sudden you can recreate your stoner moment. That would be a good product to look into.
Q: MJNN reaches an audience of cannabis business folks. I run the Marijuana Business Association. If one of our members had a business idea for a Tommy Chong product, how would they contact you, and would you be interested in that?
Q: I remember seeing an old Dylan documentary where Bob was bemoaning the fact that everyone he met wanted to get Bob stoned. And I think, gosh, if that was Bob Dylan’s problem in the 60s, I can only imagine what it your life is like. What’s it like to be Tommy Chong where obviously everyone you meet wants to get high with you?
A: It’s great. When I was on Dancing with the Stars just recently, I made a promise that if won the mirror ball, I was going get everybody in America high. Well, I got eliminated in the semi finals, so I made a statement on the web site that I am going to keep my promise. I’m going to smoke with everybody in America, that’s my goal. And when I do that, I’m going to smoke with everybody in the world.
Q: Well, we love that and are going to help you achieve your goal. MJNN reaches hundreds of thousands of folks and I’d love to see if we could do a live synch up from our Hot Pot Products for the HIGH Holiday celebration in Seattle, and have you get high with folks all over America, and we’ll broadcast it via the internet and all our various channels.
A: Well, what we can do is have a national day of getting high. I was going to do a national day of “OMing” so we can tie it together with that.
Q: Marijuana and meditation?
A: Well, there are a lot of people who don’t like to get high — for one reason or another. So while we are getting high, they can “OM.”
Q: Yes, that’s right. They can meditate for us.
A: So, let’s do that.
Q: OK. I will follow up with that. Anything else you like to share with our readers?
A: Yes, we have a new strain, the first official Tommy Chong strain, called ‘Chong Star’ at Marisol Gardens in Pueblo Colorado. That is where it is grown and manufactured. And we are going to be offering it to all the dispensaries in Colorado, and eventually around the world. It is the strain that I want to get everybody high on.
Q: Thank you again for everything you’ve done. You’ve been an inspiration to me personally since the 70s. It is just amazing how you have not only been the voice of counterculture, but now have helped to make that voice mainstream, and all along with humor and entertainment. It reminds me of John Lennon’s approach: make them laugh, and make them fucking think about it. And you are changing the world, and we thank you for what you are doing.”
A: OK. Well, let’s stay together, and let’s do it together!
Listen to David Rheins’ full interview with Tommy Chong here: