Press Release  | 07/08/2004

Actor Tommy Chong Makes 1st Post-Prison TV Appearance on the Tonight Show, Friday July 9

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Chong Sentenced to 9 Months for Selling Bongs over the Internet, as part of AG John Ashcroft

Actor Tommy Chong, who gained fame from co-staring with Cheech Marin in the cult classic Cheech and Chong movies, will be on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Friday. This will be Chong's first national TV interview since being released from Federal Prison for selling Bongs and other drug paraphernalia over the Internet.

Tommy Chong was arrested and indicted following a series of DEA raids in February 2003 as part of the Government's "Operation Pipe Dreams" crackdown on illegal drug paraphernalia. The crackdown involved at least 1200 officials, including hundreds of DEA agents, and at least 103 US Marshals. The operation led to 60 arrests. It occurred during an Orange Alert against terrorist attacks, and earned the headline "Fight Al-Qada Bombs, Not Bongs" from Scripps Howard columnist Deroy Murdock.

This week, the cover story of the leading conservative weekly, National Review, calls for an end to America's irrational marijuana prohibition. Written by Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization working to promote drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights, the ground breaking article brings the debate over marijuana policy up to date, addresses all the claims made by prohibitionists, explains the role of medical marijuana in all this, and suggests the political process by which marijuana prohibition may ultimately end in this country. To view the article, visit:

When Tommy Chong was arrested, Nadelmann responded to the Justice Department's "Operation Pipe Dreams" with the following comments:

On "Operation Pipe Dreams": "The Administration referring to marijuana as a poison, when no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose is absurd. It would be more logical--although I'm not suggesting this--to prosecute people who sell beer mugs because of the poison consumed in them."

On Money: "The government is spending millions of dollars in taxpayer money to incarcerate people like Tommy Chong, who pose absolutely no threat to the health or wellbeing of our society."

On America's unique stance on drugs: "These paraphernalia laws exist in no other advanced democracy. They're uniquely American. There is no evidence that these laws have any impact on reducing drug use whatsoever."

Interesting marijuana facts from Ethan Nadelmann's National Review cover story:

  • Police make about 700, 000 arrests per year for marijuana offenses --roughly 87% of those are for nothing more than possession of small amounts.
  • Almost as many people are arrested for marijuana as for all other illicit drugs combined.
  • Enforcing marijuana laws costs an estimated $10-15 billion taxpayer dollars per year in direct costs alone.
  • More than 50% of Americans between the ages of 18-50 have tried marijuana at least once.
  • 72% of Americans favor decriminalization--applying a fine, not jail time,
  • 40% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana and treating it like alcohol, according to a 2003 Zogby poll.
  • Unlike alcohol and many other drugs, no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose.
  • Alabama locks up people convicted three times of marijuana possession for 15 years to life.
  • The federal Higher Education Act prohibits student loans to young people convicted of any drug offense; all other criminal offenders remain eligible.
  • More than 80% of high school students report that it's easy to get marijuana.
  • Every state ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana has been approved.
  • Though it publicly denies that marijuana has medical value, the federal government currently provides marijuana from its own production site in Mississippi to a few court-certified patients.
  • In Holland, where cannabis is decriminalized, it is no more popular than in the U.S.

Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Elizabeth Mendez Berry at (212) 613-8036

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