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Tommy Chong - Libertarian

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The following article appeared in the Summer 1998 issue of The Liberator, magazine of the Advocates for Self-Government.

My Chat With Chong

by Ken Bush

Any nostalgic look back on the counter-culture of the late 1960s and early '70's wouldn't be complete without attention to that era's hit comedy team of "Cheech and Chong."

Richard "Cheech" Martin and Tommy Chong were best known for their unconventional and controversial best-selling comedy albums and movies that poked fun at the establishment (and the counter-culture) through their portrayal of hippie characters who were perpetually stoned.

Although the team has split up, both men still pursue active entertainment careers today. Tommy Chong does CDs (both comedy and music) and films. He had a role in the feature film version of the '60's TV classic McHale's Navy. He's a full-time stand-up comic appearing at top clubs across the country.

In late March, I heard Chong appearing as an in-studio guest on KMOX radio in St. Louis, promoting an upcoming nightclub gig. Much of the show centered on Chong arguing passionately for the right of adults to use marijuana for medicine, industry, and recreation. Chong spoke openly of his own recreational use.

I phoned the show and chatted with Chong on the air about the dangerous effects of the War on Drugs. The host recognized my voice and identified me to listeners as a libertarian. Later that week I called Chong at his hotel and asked if we could meet to discuss politics further. Chong agreed to meet me at the St. Louis International Airport before he jetted back to his Southern California home.

I found Chong to be a friendly, laid-back chap. We chatted near the airport gate for about twenty minutes, until his flight departed. He wanted me to critique his KMOX radio interview. I complimented him on his appearance and his courage in confronting the Drug War head-on. Then I explained that I've appeared on radio and TV news shows myself, and spoken at various forums cautioning about drug abuse while at the same time advocating total relegalization of drugs.

Chong particularly took note of how I use right-wing and conservative rhetoric to argue for re-legalization. And he laughed at the title of a speech I had recently given to a Republican club: "How To Use the Bible, the Constitution, and Capitalism to Argue Drug-Legalization."

Later I popped the big question to Chong: "Are you a libertarian?" He didn't have a definite answer; he seemed unsure.

Well, I was prepared. I had brought with me the poster-sized Advocates' Self-Government Chart -- the one used in Operation Politically Homeless. And right there, in the midst of a crowded, busy airport, I gave Chong a quick two-minute crash course on libertarianism versus other political philosophies.

At the end of this impromptu Libertarianism 101, I handed over the Chart to Chong and asked him to point to the quadrant where he felt most at home. By this time a small crowd was gathering. I grabbed my camera as Chong held up the poster -- and pointed to the libertarian position!

By then Chong's flight was leaving. I thanked him for his time as he quickly darted away to catch his flight -- leaving me to field questions from the curious crowd. What a chance that was to hand out the World's Smallest Political Quiz to a cross-section of folks from around the world!

* * * * *

Ken Bush is a long-time libertarian activist who is based in St. Louis. His hobby is encountering celebrities and prominent folks and discussing libertarianism. Ken says his recent encounter with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia [!] wasn't quite as successful as his meeting with Chong.

NOTE: It may have slipped his mind, but some time in the mid-1980's Tommy Chong, during a visit to Colorado, endorsed the Libertarian Party candidate for governor in that state, saying "That's my party." The story was reported in Libertarian Party News -- we're searching for the exact issue.

 


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