As one-half of the most iconic Hollywood stoner duo of all time, Tommy Chong has spent his life standing up for cannabis. Through the sales of his classic songs, endorsement deals, public appearances and merchandise honoring his role as the grandfather of weed, Chong has claimed his stake in the legal sector.
Thomas B. Kin Chong was born in 1938 to a Scots-Irish mother and a Chinese immigrant father in Edmonton, Canada. Shunned by his predominantly white neighborhood, young Chong turned to music, particularly the emerging all-black jazz movement sweeping Calgary at the time. He left school at 16 to pursue a music career and had mild success as a member of the Motown group Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers. Chong was first introduced to cannabis by those jazz cats, which, like music, would become a lifelong love for him. Lightning struck when he met and partnered with Richard “Cheech” Marin to establish the legendary comedy duo Cheech & Chong.
The pair dominated counterculture comedy throughout the ’70s and ’80s with their unique, first-of-its-kind stoner brand improv. Cheech & Chong starred in nine films together, including Up In Smoke, Nice Dreams and Still Smokin. The pair received four Grammy Award nominations and amassed a reputation in college towns and through word-of-mouth. They parted ways in 1985 but reunited in 2012 for the Get It Legal tour to promote cannabis legalization.
The feds indicted Chong in 2003 as part of Operation Pipe Dream, an investigation into the unlawful sale of drug paraphernalia, for his role in supporting and advertising Chong Glass Works/Nice Dreams, two California-based businesses founded by his son Paris. In its heyday, Chong Glass Works/Nice Dreams had 25 glass blowers who could create up to 100 pipes in a single day. The company specialized in creating high-end bongs as collectible works of art. In exchange for his wife Shelby and his son not being prosecuted, Chong agreed to enter a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to distribute drug paraphernalia. Chong received a sentence of nine months in federal prison, a $20,000 fine, $103,000 in forfeiture and a year of prohibition.
Chong has beaten cancer twice—prostate cancer in 2012 and colorectal cancer in 2015— and credits cannabis and hemp oil for his successful recovery.
After the passing of Prop 64 in 2016, which legalized cannabis for recreational use in California, Chong launched his brand of weed under the name Chong’s Choice, which features a robust line of CBD and THC products.
Chong reunited with Cheech once again to create Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis, which provides flower and multiple other products in markets across the US. Additionally, the duo recently launched a cannabis delivery service, Cheech & Chong’s Takeout, that’ll be available throughout California.
The cinematic duo continues to prove their cultural relevance and appeal to a new generation of stoners. In 2022, Cheech and Chong presented the Red Hot Chili Peppers with the Global Icons Award at MTV’s Video Music Awards. Tommy Chong recently received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his many contributions to the industry at the Cannabis Conference in Las Vegas.
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.