Courtesy of Cheech & Chong Cannabis Company

Tommy Chong Talks Politics, Prison and Prime Time

Hannah (Izer) Vysoky

By Hannah (Izer) Vysoky

November 8, 2022

I mean, come on — is an introduction even needed for this one? Tommy Chong is a well-known actor, musician, comedian and cannabis activist. He is widely known for his pot-themed comedy duo with Cheech Marin as they’ve together become the famous pair Cheech & Chong. We also love him for his role as Leo on That 70s Show.

I don’t even know how to begin to share that Mr. Chong is a full-fledged sweetheart. He is kind, patient with his time, and we talked like we’ve been buddies for years. I cannot stress enough how much I adore this man and the impact that he has had on cannabis culture and my own professional life.

We chatted about the Biden Administration, his time in prison for Operation Pipe Dreams and his love for being “the senior hip guy” on That 70s Show. We also took a trip down memory lane to talk about his Starbucks drink order that was served by yours truly, and Chong shared how he has impacted many United States cultures.

Keep reading. You don’t want to miss a moment of our conversation.

Courtesy of Cheech & Chong Cannabis Company

Tommy Chong on Current Politics and Prison

High There: What are your thoughts on

announced by President Biden for federal cannabis possession charges?

Tommy Chong: You know what needs to be done, and it needs to be rescheduled. If they did it, that would solve the user problem. Yeah. You know the political situation and also help politically. That’s why we got it. It’s all part of the plan. It’s all part of the plan to get the Democrats to take over everything, which is good. I got a bittersweet thing with Biden anyway because I went to jail because of the law he passed. I want to go after the government for reparations for what I’ve experienced.

Because, you know, when they busted me, they took my money that had nothing to do with cannabis or the bongs. They arrested me for bongs but took all the spare change and cash I had in the house. And they went looking for weapons. They treated a bong maker like me as if I were a cartel drug king, you know? And I think they need to make amends for that, you know? And I’m going to use it for publicity as well. I know how to work the system. 

I like

, you know, he’s […] America. Catholic America, you know, but you have to believe that shit. Yeah. It’s funny how Trump always said, “We need to go back to the old days.” Well, Biden got us back to the old days. Well, it’s funny; Trump sacrificed his whole freedom with his ignorance. I think it’s funny, you know, be careful what you wish for. Trump said he was going to “drain the swamp in Washington,” and what he’s done is identify all the swamp critters. So [laughs] he’s fulfilling his promises. 

LOS ANGELES - MAY 7:  Tommy Chong at the 11th Annual George Lopez Foundation Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Lakeside Golf Club on May 7, 2018 in Burbank, CA

It’s really dangerous. These guys don’t know how dangerous it is to mock God, to mock the system, the Bible. Trump is just a prop. And anybody that believes in that crap is a sucker. We have to be robbed, you know; that’s the way he feels. But he has no idea what goes into the power of the Bible or anything holy would be a swear to God. And if you’re not sincere, all Hell will come down on top of you. That’s what you do when you mock a force that has produced us. So, I have been enjoying everything that has been going on.

A Personal Past Experience with Injustice 

HT: Can you share your experience with Operation Pipe Dreams in 2003?

Chong: Well, I’m on television, you know, I watch TV as much as I possibly can and also read commercials. Like, you can tell a lot about a network station by the commercials that they run. If you look at what I’ve been watching these, “Camp Lejeune, if you have been stationed at this camp, you probably have cancer. So, then you’re entitled to a big payoff here, you could die, but you’re entitled to get paid for all of the things the government did.” When I was in prison, I was in prison in Taft, California. 

Well, they closed the prison down. Because the prison was built over a toxic waste dump. And everybody, including myself, has been, you know, near that camp for any length of time and has had contact with cancer or some form of the disease. I was no exception. I got prostate cancer when I was there, and it turned into rectal cancer. So I had a serious operation. That was because they put us in prison built over a toxic waste dump where they used to gather the oil away before they learned how to use pipelines. 

Courtesy of Cheech & Chong Cannabis Company

So when they hit oil, they would dig up a big pond and scoop the barrels into the lake. That was their way of doing it. The land became toxic, and it was only good for building a prison, I guess. It’s America’s heritage, and I think I deserve, if nothing else, to get my belongings back that they stole from me.

The Primetime Pro

HT: Absolutely. Speaking of your television experience,

earlier this year.

Chong: Oh, right. I saw that.

HT: Topher Grace mentioned that he does not have many glass pieces, but the one he does have and treasures are one that was handmade and gifted by you.

Chong: Oh, sure. Because when I joined That 70s Show, I think nobody was sure how long I would be on there. You know, it was more like a little shot. But it took on so well to show.

But being right in the middle of the bong factory, you know, it was at the height of our products when we were putting them out. So I made a bong for all the cast members. They all got one. And Topher is the only one who kept his. He’s a sweet guy. He was such a good actor and still is such a good actor. 

Tommy Chong  at a press conference to announce the "Cheech and Chong Light up America..." Comedy Tour. Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA. 07-30-08

My time on That 70s Show was so beautiful because I was the senior hip guy; you know, they were talking about pot on the show, but I was the only guy that smoked it.

All the actors, including Ashton, did a stoner movie. He tried to do a pot movie, Dude, Where’s My Car? On That 70s Show, I had all the time in the world, you know. My part was so small and easy to do. Instead of staying in my dressing room, I would go on the set and pretend I was in school. I would study how you made a sitcom because I’m a multi-director, so I was ready to check out how they do it with scripts because I had never really worked with them before; I was an improv guy. 

I learned so much, and Topher was a nitpicker. He would go over a particular line for hours to achieve the elements for the particular scene. But Topher was always a great guy, sweet as can be. All the kids were on the show. I remember Mila learning how to drive on set. She learned how to drive automobiles because they were letting her practice with golf carts on the set.

Courtesy of Cheech & Chong Cannabis Company

HT: What was it like being on such a prime-time television show with so much cannabis influence weaved throughout?

Chong: It was the casting people. Mark Brazil, the creator of the show itself, was the one that insisted that they were floundering around because the authenticity was just not there in the beginning. It was kind of about kids learning how to smoke weed. So when they got me on this show now, it’s validated.

They knew my background, you know, just “Tommy Chong” being on the show. I didn’t even have to smoke anything. They just knew that I smoked so much that that’s what you got. It took me almost the whole five years that I was on to realize how genius a show it was. Because I’ve been in so many different situations and the most successful, I’ve had a hand in writing, not just acting, but writing like all the Cheech & Chong movies and directing. 

When I got onto Thats 70s Show, it was apparent how great the show would be because the writing was dead on. There’s nothing I can write. Everything they wrote was so, so perfect for the character. So then, I learned that it is tough for me and the non-actors to trust the writing. That’s why I started sitting in on meetings with David Traynor, the director and would have sessions with the kids because the whole show was school. 

Everybody in the show was always learning; they were kids, so they were learning the craft as they were there. The creator was one of the greatest teachers because he hardly talked; he wanted them to be able to figure it out for themselves. That’s when I learned how to respect the writing of the show. Every time I watch a show, I look for that authenticity within. I’m so glad the writers that I did that, you know, I had the one line with the “Tool Man”, what’s his name…

HT: Tim Allen?

Chong: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Remember his sidekick?

HT: Yeah.

Chong: We did a show together, and he kicked me, and he asked me something, and I said, “I think we need to go two inches”’ or something like that. But that was the only line I’ve ever ad libbed and made it to air. I was so impressed with [That’s 70s Show]. Yeah. And the producers were as sweet as can be. 

Napa, CA/USA - 5/26/16: Tommy Chong performs during a Cheech and Chong show at the Uptown Theater in Napa, CA as a part of the 4th annual BottleRock festival.

The whole vibe of the show… the kids were treated like stars. They were stars, you know, Donna and Eric and all of them, they all hung together. And then Kitty, Red, Don, and the other cast had these little get-togethers. I cannot begin to tell you how much I truly learned from that show.

HT: I completely resonate with that. You know, I’m 26 years old. I grew up watching that show. It was so funny to me as a kid, but then I grew up and learned how genius the entire show was, especially as a cannabis consumer.

Chong: It wasn’t preachy. It wasn’t teachy. It was just showing situations that were going on right across America. It was fun for the kids right in middle America, the suburbs. It was about the problems they had. You know what, Wilmer (who played Fez), they never said he was anything; he was “the foreigner.” So what they did is they Americanized him.

An Unforgettable Impact

HT: I have a question for you, and I appreciate all of the time you’ve given me! I met you back in 2017. I was working as a barista at Starbucks in Davenport, Iowa. You were in town for a show with Cheech.

Chong: Oh yeah, I have a photo of the show with Cheech that we did there. We were performing there. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

HT: It was you and your wife. And I remember that you had a very, very unique drink order. And I’m curious if it’s the same. I remember that your wife ordered a triple grande nonfat latte. You ordered a venti English Breakfast tea with no water and filled with steamed almond milk.

Tommy and Hannah years ago when she served him at Starbucks — Photo Courtesy Hannah (Izer) Vysoky

Chong: (Laughs) Oh, that was when I had coffee problems.

Well, my wife is a genius in so many ways. And nutrition is up there with her. Although, back then, she did have a tight rein on me to make sure that I didn’t do anything wrong because I’m the money maker in the family. So they got to keep me healthy!

HT: I wanted to end this call by sharing that this was important to me. You met me at a time in my life when I wanted to advance myself into a career, and I didn’t know where I belonged. My passion for cannabis and seeing how great you were in person made me begin to think about working as a professional in the cannabis space. It was a real catalyst moment for me.

Chong: You know, I have that effect on people. One time, Cheech and I were playing in this golf tournament… What was the name of Elaine’s boyfriend on Seinfeld?

HT: David Puddy? (played by Patrick Warburton)

Chong: I think so. Anyway, he had a golf tournament in L.A, and he still does. I’ve played in it a couple of times, and then the promoters eventually asked for Cheech & Chong to perform. They wanted to use us for the promotion of the golf tournaments. So they said that they wanted us to perform at the dinner that night. It’s funny because, at the time, everyone at this event was Republican. 

I said, “Okay, you want Cheech & Chong, they’re going to get Cheech & Chong. So we did the whole show for them, and then the promoters eventually tried shutting us down and figuring out ways to get us off the stage. [laughs] But anyway, we were invited to that show, and one guy there was a lawyer and shared that we changed his life because after he saw our show, he was on the cusp of entering the cannabis business, and we pushed him into going for it.

HT: That is fantastic!

Thank you so much, Tommy Chong, and to the team at

for a great conversation with High There.

Hannah (Izer) Vysoky

About The Author

Hannah (Izer) Vysoky