Tommy Chong: We Meet Again

Tommy, Marc, and ShelbyTommy, Marc, and ShelbyAfter a showing of the film A/K/A Tommy Chong, once again I shared jail stories and ruminations about the intensification of the War of the Marijuana People with an energized Tommy Chong.
Tommy has clearly gone ‘activist’, and his movie is a humorous testament to the absurd circumstances of his arrest and 9 month incarceration for selling bongs across state lines.

The film by Josh Gilbert is much better than you expect, I have to say that. It’s a very good film that accounts Chong’s history while deftly ? but not preachingly ? railing against the cruelties and persecution of the cannabis culture. It’s a film I think the marijuana community will love and that critics are also finding favour with.

Smoothly edited snippets of footage of Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin’s heyday remind the viewer of why Chong was so influential, so subversive.

Afterward, Tommy ? accompanied by his ever-lovely partner of over 30 years, Shelby ? and the director generously answered questions from the audience. Then they talked to anyone else over the next hour. Almost every comment was peppered with both amusement and condemnation of the drug war, the DEA, and the US “justice” system.

Tommy listens as Marc talks about his caseTommy listens as Marc talks about his caseTouchingly, Tommy spoke to me afterward in very concerned tones and at great length about my impending extradition. I did not ask him any favours like “would you consider doing a benefit performance to help pay some legal fees”, because I’ve never done that before ? but perhaps I should have! He mentioned me in his speeches to the media yesterday, and during the question period after the well-attended afternoon screening. Brothers at war.

– Marc Emery

Marc and I left the movie right before it ended, so we could hand out some ‘No Extradition’ flyers to the audience as they left. While Marc talked about the film with the director, a grey-haired gentleman approached. It was Tommy ? what a nice surprise!

Tommy was very concerned about Marc and his situation. He talked with him while the film ended; after speaking to the audience and answering questions, he put his arm around Marc and walked with him to the lobby, with many anxious fans trailing behind wanting a Chong autograph.

Fans with Marc, Jodie, and TommyFans with Marc, Jodie, and TommyTommy spoke directly with Marc for some time, as his wonderful wife Shelby spoke to fans and did a beautiful job staying out of the way while being supportive and helpful at the same time (I admire her greatly). Tommy asked about a few different aspects of the current situation. He also expressed shock at the extradition of Steve Tuck, who was just taken from a Vancouver emergency room and shipped to the USA by the police. “It’s just insane” was the general consensus, as we spoke of the absurdity of the War on Drugs.

It was a pleasure meeting Tommy and Shelby once again, and I was very happy with the film. It was a little frightening at parts, because we were watching the evil DEA at work using the same sleazy tricks they pulled on Marc and his coworkers here. The movie showed a calm and brave Mr. and Mrs. Chong preparing for the impending prison sentence. “Just nine months, and you’ll be back home,” Shelby said. And Tommy was ready for what he had to do. Shelby was courageous and encouraging.

Tommy, Shelby, and JoshTommy, Shelby, and JoshTommy was prepared and accepting of his fate ? just like Marc has been. Tommy spoke of the people he met in prison, many who were trapped and abused and arrested and tricked by soldiers of the Drug War. He said that his imprisonment was his step into doing more for the movement. He said he was grateful to have gone through it, and he was humbled after “standing up to be counted”. It made me remember how we need to be strong in our own battle against the DEA, and reminded me that there are still hundreds and hundreds of people incarcerated and we have to fight for them too.

Tommy Chong’s personal experience was both ridiculous and terrifying at once, and it made me happy to know he survived his time in prison. However, it also reminds me that in our own case, if Marc goes to jail, he won’t be coming home once his sentence is complete.

We cannot let that happen.

-Jodie Giesz-Ramsay

Photography by Joe Kamon