Looking to shake the stoner stereotype, the marijuana industry drops famed smoker Tommy Chong as an activist.
By Burgess Everett
3/31/15 1:41 PM EDT
The marijuana lobby is tired of the “Cheech & Chong” stoner jokes and wants to be taken seriously in Congress.
That’s why the National Cannabis Industry Association dropped actor and marijuana activist Tommy Chong from its Capitol Hill lobbying push slated for the end of April. According to an internal email obtained by POLITICO, the cannabis industry wants to move past the stoner stereotypes embodied by Chong as it tries to remake itself as a serious and respectable segment of the economy.
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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’ …Read More