Entertainer, entrepreneur and cannabis celebrity Tommy Chong appeared this week at the opening of Seattle’s CannaCon, billed as the nation’s largest marijuana-related trade and seminar show.
With a message more hymn than manifesto, Chong held a brief news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the medical and social benefits of pot, to promote the value of drinking water and to relate his own experiences both in show business and prison.
He also came to promote a series of cannabis-related products that bear his name, including a hemp-infused beverage, a vaporizer, a marijuana grinder and “smoke swipes” that can remove the reeks and fumes of marijuana from clothing and other surfaces.
Chong began a brief presentation to media and fans by explaining that he was arrested in 2003 and spent nine months in prison for promoting and transporting a line of bongs.
Now, as then, he said the government used a “racist law” to send a cooling message to marijuana advocates and to those who are “selling a product that has been sold since the beginning of time.”
“I knew pot was good for you,” he said.
He discussed the “insanity of prohibition” and noted his belief that “the government in power is so illegal.”
Spreading an arm to indicate the business being conducted on the trade show floor — where sellers and buyers were promoting products of their own, from lighting systems to marijuana packaging, from financial services to organic soil — Chong said, “Everybody here is breaking the law.”
The co-star of a series of ”Cheech and Chong” movies and a popular washout on the TV show “Dancing With the Stars,” Chong went on to discuss his successful struggle with prostate cancer, and the benefits he believes he received from using marijuana for medical rather than generally social purposes.
“This plant is God’s gift to us,” he said. “Eventually we will get people in power to understand.”
He also said he believed he knew what kind of bush it was that Moses found burning with the word of God.
Someone asked if he missed his former partner Cheech Marin while behind bars.
No, Chong said. “There are a lot of Cheeches in jail.”
Later, in a brief interview, Chong said that the legalization of marijuana — now codified in Washington and Colorado — “is like a tsunami. Either you flow with it or get out of the way, or it will bury you.”
He also noted that one of the purported symptoms of prolonged marijuana use is that the substance reduces the capacity to remember.
Chong called this “one of the greatest things about it. It makes you forget. We need to forget how we used to live, we need to forget our bad habits, we need to remember that everybody’s a brother and a sister, everybody on earth.”
CannaCon continues through Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Pier 91 cruise terminal in Seattle. Visit cannacon.org for further information.