As part of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong, Tommy Chong portrayed marijuana users as slapstick buffoons. But now he’s in Seattle for what he says is the serious endeavor of promoting the benefits of marijuana – and his personal brand.
Over breakfast at his hotel, Chong praised marijuana for its medicinal and recreational uses, and he condemned federal drug laws.
Sometimes he sounded a bit like the characters he has portrayed in movies.
“See our marijuana laws were anti – they’re against the Constitution from the very beginning, our right to pursuit of happiness, for sure,” he said.
At 76, Chong said he’s dedicating himself to marijuana advocacy. He calls himself “the face of pot," and said, in the wake of marijuana legalization, his voicemail has been full with business offers and invitations straight out of "stoner culture."
His business partners in Seattle say if they were a Catholic church, his presence would be like the pope coming to town.
Just over a decade ago, Chong was in federal prison for making drug paraphernalia. Now Chong is licensing his name and image for what he hopes will become national marijuana brands. “My credibility is through the roof as far as cannabis goes, because I also paid the price,” he said. “I did nine months in jail because of my pot beliefs.”
Once the poster boy for hotboxing cars, Chong’s own use of marijuana is also a sign of the times. He said he has been taking one pot suppository a day for months, which he views as a preventative measure for a relapse of prostate cancer.
Chong’s itinerary in Seattle includes looking for investors and meeting with medical marijuana users at a dispensary called C&C on Lake City Way. Pete O’Neil, founder of C&C, said he’s seeking multiple retail licenses for marijuana stores and hopes to have some open by this fall carrying Tommy Chong’s brands.
But O’Neil opened the location as a medical marijuana business in the meantime. He said Colorado’s regulatory process seems to be working more smoothly. He blames the Washington State Liquor Control Board for what he said has been a more cumbersome process for marijuana retailers here.
“When I first got into the industry a year and a half ago, our plan wasn’t to get into the medical marijuana,” O’Neil said. “But out of necessity we did. We took our Seattle location and flipped it into a dispensary because my investors were like, ‘Pete, you spent a year on rent, now make some money with the location.’”
O’Neil said he has filed a lawsuit against the Washington State Liquor Control Board over another retail license in Lynnwood. He says there were errors in the state’s lottery process. A Liquor Control Board spokesman says the agency can’t comment on pending litigation.