Best known as one-half of legendary pot-fueled comedy duo Cheech & Chong (their website is here), Canadian-born Tommy Chong, 82, is today a vocal advocate for the health benefits of cannabis. With six gold records and eight films during their reign, Cheech & Chong defined a pot era with their unique brand of “stoner-comedy”.
After the duo split up in 1985, Chong continued to work in film and TV, playing an aging hippie photo store worker on That 70’s Show, recently featuring on The Masked Singer and Dancing with The Stars. Twenty years ago, he reunited with Cheech Marin, today entering into the regulated cannabis market with his Tommy Chong Cannabis brand and Cheech and Chong Dispensary (marketed by Five Point Holdings).
A father of five, wed to Shelby Fiddis for 45 years, even a 2003 nine-month prison sentence for shipping bongs to Pennsylvania and a battle with cancer has failed to suppress his passion for the high life. He talks about it with Senior Planet:
SP: This isn’t your first rodeo into the pot market?
TC: No. After I was carted off to jail in 2003, my son got different versions of Chong weed going and Cheech did his own brand in 2007.
SP: How is your brand different from other celebrity brands?
TC: We’re not musicians capitalizing on our hobby like Willie Nelson or Snoop who just lend their names. We’re not only pot comedians – starting with our albums and then Up in Smoke – but also the first pot activists. We’ve been growers and users forever. Our Big Bambu rolling paper still sells like crazy. We’re doing it in a very intelligent manner, opening our first two stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles this year with hopefully more to follow.
SP: Was it hard to quit pot in prison?
TC: The minute I was arrested I quit smoking because I was being drug-tested on pre-trial probation. If you violate, they can add more charges to your rap sheet. So I quit smoking for three years and I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in prison during the time I was not smoking.
SP: Does pot get a bad rap?
TC: Yes, because marijuana is not addictive – unlike cigarettes, heroin or alcohol. I know this because I did the drug education program in prison and learned a lot.
SP: Any advice for seniors looking to experiment, where legal?
TC: Do your research and know what you’re putting in your body – don’t do what anybody tells you. Like Trump saying to use Lysol. I give tiny peppermint breath strips with 10mg of THC to friends who don’t smoke pot. It helps them sleep through the night and helps with anxiety. Dispensaries carry them in handy little packets.
SP: Your claim to beat prostate cancer with a cannabis oil protocol was very controversial. Can you explain?
TC: For my actual treatment, I did chemo pills and radiation and then I used Rick Simpson oil (concentrated cannabis oil) during my recovery. Marijuana goes right to the brain and the immune system, calming your body down so you can heal while staying in the moment.
Then while I was doing Dancing with the Stars, I got rectal cancer and had radiation, chemo pills and surgery so they totally cleaned out the cancer and I used marijuana to heal after. I’m cancer-free as far as I know.
SP: You’ve been with your wife Shelby almost 50 years. Any marriage tips?
TC: I tell the men in my life that they need to worship their wives because we’re so lucky to have them. I had dinner with Sugar Ray Leonard and we talked about how we’re married to these beautiful but bossy women. You have to let them know, one way or another, how much you really love them and that takes care of everything.
SP: Do you still hang out with Cheech?
TC: Yes, we do autograph sessions together and visit each other’s houses. We were on the road before the pandemic but he needed knee surgery so we quit touring the day before they stopped live entertainment. We will always be tight.
SP: Are you recognized every time you go out?
TC: Yes! Even with a mask. A pro basketball player recognized me in a restaurant. I was walking my little poodle the other day and this hip dude said he grew up with my movies in Iran. We’re recognized all over the world.
SP: How do you stay fit?
TC: I use rubber bands for upper body work-outs, alternating between legs and upper body each day. Even in the hospital I was doing planks and sit-ups. If I don’t work out I feel bad. People age badly when their blood stops circulating.
SP: What’s your secret to aging with attitude?
TC: The truth is, I was lucky to find God when I was very young. I was separated from my parents because I had pleurisy and my mother had TB and was in a sanitarium and my dad was in WWII so I never really saw them until I was four years old. I was in a Salvation Army orphanage and the nurses all pampered me because I was a cute little brown guy. Every day began with Christian songs, and I’ve kept that with me my whole life so that I have a relationship with God which is incredible and creates miracles. I take all my problems to God and they disappear. That’s my secret to why I’m still going strong.
Want a look at how it all began? Take a look here!
Photo credit Neil Visel