Cheech and Chong star tries to travel to Canada for cannabis legalisation day 'but can't find passport'

Pot-loving Tommy Chong is due to return to his homeland to usher in the new era

Tim Wyatt
Wednesday 17 October 2018 13:53 BST
Tommy Chong lights up in the classic stoner comedy from the 1970s, Up in Smoke
Tommy Chong lights up in the classic stoner comedy from the 1970s, Up in Smoke

Canada’s most famous stoner, comedian and actor Tommy Chong, is unsure if he can make it back home for the day cannabis is legalised because he has lost his passport.

The 80-year-old, who starred in the famous reefer comedy Up In Smoke in 1972 and now lives in California, was supposed to appear at an event in British Columbia on Wednesday but discovered while packing that he has mislaid his travel documents.

“We’re trying. Right now, I’m stuck here. I lost my passport, so we’re going through the dance of a celebrity trying to get a passport fast,” he told the Toronto Star.

Chong became one of the most well-known marijuana advocates along with his comedy partner, Cheech Marin, during the heydey of the stoner era in the 1970s.

The duo released a string of comedy music albums as well as films like Up In Smoke, which follows the drugged-up pair trying to haplessly evade the cops on a long road trip from California to Mexico and back.

Canada became only the second country in the world to fully legalise recreational cannabis use on Wednesday. Mr Chong, who has long campaigned for a change in the law, was invited back to his homeland to celebrate but told reporters on Tuesday he was not sure if he would make it in time because after waylaying his passport.

“It was inevitable, because weed is such a positive medicine for the planet,” he said. “The biggest thing is the change in attitude around it. There was a time where if you went to a cocktail party, and if I wore a weed T-shirt, it was like ‘who invited this guy?’

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“Now it’s all changed. The exciting part about it, it’s now presentable. We don’t have to hide. I’m like a walking marijuana information bureau.”

California, where Chong has lived for decades, legalised marijuana itself at the start of 2018.

“I’ve had a taste of pot legalisation, and it’s good,” he told his hometown newspaper the Calgary Herald.

But while about half of American states now allow cannabis for either medical or recreational use, Canada has become only the second nation after Uruguay to fully legalise the drug.

“Canada is the leader,” Chong said.

Chong has first-hand experience of the swift turnaround in authorities’ attitude towards cannabis. In 2003 he was caught up in an US federal crackdown against people selling bongs and other drug paraphanalia over the internet and spent nine months in prison – sharing a cell with the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Jordan Belfort.

“They arrested me for transporting water pipes across state lines...I was a POW [prisoner of war] in the war on drugs,” he told the Calgary Herald.

And although Canadians can now light up in any province, the government has warned them against trying to cross the border in the US – which still prohibits marijuana use at the federal level – while high.

Ahead of legalisation day, Canada’s minister for border security, Bill Blair, said: “Frankly if you show up at the border looking like Cheech and Chong, you’re going into secondary [additional inspection].

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"But I think for the overwhelming majority of Canadians, they won’t experience a significant change in the way in which the border operates.”

Despite the surge of interest in the ageing pot-lovers after Canada’s legalisation of their favourite pastime, Chong reflected that ultimately the move could spell the end of the stoner duo’s careers.

“I guess [legalisation] is not really good for Cheech and Chong. It’s going to ruin our career. I think we’re going to probably have to retire, or just be an oldies group," he said.

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