Tommy Chong fired by Marijuana Lobby
Tommy Chong is a living example of marijuana’s effectiveness. Thanks to weed not only did the long-time activist beat cancer, at 76 years old he recently shook his ass off on Dancing with the Stars. So why did the National Cannabis Industry Association drop him from its upcoming Capitol Hill lobbying push? Apparently they want to distance themselves from the comic who was once targeted by the government and spent time behind bars for selling bongs, because they’re against stoner culture.
Apparently “the marijuana lobby is tired of the Cheech & Chong stoner jokes and wants to be taken seriously in Congress” as it tries to “remake itself as a serious and respectable segment of the economy,” reveals Politico who go on to say:
In a Monday email sent to Chong’s representatives and allies, NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith said that after deliberations and feedback from “allied members of Congress,” the group decided Chong is not the best representative in stodgy Washington, particularly when it comes to lobbying right-of-center lawmakers.
“Having Tommy out in DC for the NCIA Lobby Days will detract from the overall message we aim for with the event, which is that cannabis business people are regular professionals and relatable to the generally conservative members of Congress we are looking to appeal to,” Smith wrote. “We are here to break ‘stoner’ stereotypes rather than reinforce them.”
The NCIA was particularly concerned with a recent farcical YouTube video starring Chong that shows him smoking pot in a car, nodding off at the wheel and using a “Tommy Chong’s smokeswipe” to banish the smell of marijuana on his clothing before a meeting with a parole officer.
“This was released less than a week ago and only intensifies my previous concern,” Smith wrote. “This sort of message is exactly the opposite of what we are trying to do with our efforts to legitimize the industry by showing it in a positive and responsible light.”
The email was shared by an anonymous source sympathetic to Chong’s work on a successful 2012 campaign to legalize marijuana in Washington state. The source noted that Chong has served jail time for his role in the pot industry.
Pete O’Neil, who runs the C & C Cannabis Company in Seattle, said in an interview he’d dropped his membership from NCIA over the group’s “disrespect” toward Chong and said he’s looking for a new lobbyist.
“Maybe there’s a reason marijuana is still illegal. Maybe we don’t have the right guys in D.C.,” O’Neil said. “In a couple of years as we mature as an industry we’ll get better representation in D.C., more professional.”
Reached for comment on Tuesday, Chong’s spokesman attempted to downplay the rift. “We do not want to escalate this event in any manner. NCIA made a decision based on their understanding of the landscape along with their goals and objectives for the event,” the spokesman said. “We all want the same thing here and we do not want to cause, or be part of, any ripples in our allied goal.”
Taylor West, deputy director for NCIA, said the group still hopes to work with Chong in the future. But members worried that Chong’s celebrity would distract from their goal of meeting with congressional staffers and lawmakers to push the message that “people in this industry just want to be treated fairly.”
“When we talked about the possibility of having Tommy there, it just seems like a celebrity distracts from that,” West said. “As soon as you have a celebrity in the orbit … stories about the event are going to be focused on the celebrity.”
The name Tommy Chong is synonymous with marijuana activism. Who gives a shit if he made a silly ad for a new product or didn’t win Dancing with the Stars—he recently showed millions of mainstream Americans the real benefit of decades of smoking pot. To dismiss him now after a near life-time of fighting to free the weed just seems wrong.
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