By Cheryl Shuman
I met Tommy Chong back in the 90’s when he was starring on “That 70’s Show”. Ironically, we shared the same publicist who arranged a visit to the set to meet Ashton Kutcher and the rest of the cast. His beautiful wife Shelby was on the set with him that day. We have stayed in touch ever since.
We reunited when I launched the Beverly Hills Chapter of NORML in 2009. Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin both supported us by co-branding and launching their first concert film in decades with the Weinstein Company. The collaboration was an amazing success.
Tommy Chong and I connected again when he says he is battling prostate cancer the best way he knows how: with medical cannabis.
“Cannabis is a cure,” he told CNN in announcing his illness. The veteran comic, 74, said he was diagnosed last month but first noticed symptoms during his 2003-04 incarceration in California for selling pot paraphernalia. He described the cancer as a slow stage 1.
A longtime supporter of medicinal marijuana, Chong was giving an interview about the health benefits of pot when he revealed his illness. “I’ve got prostate cancer, and I’m treating it with cannabis oil,” he told CNN’s Don Lemon. “So [legalizing marijuana] means a lot more to me than just being able to smoke a joint without being arrested.”
Chong told the cable news network he quit smoking marijuana last year “for health reasons” but is using cannabis oil to treat the disease. “[I take it] at night, so I won’t be woozy all day,” he said. “I’m taking it as a medicine.”
A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Chong rose to fame during the early 1970s with partner Richard “Cheech” Marin as the stoner-comedy duo Cheech and Chong. They released eight albums from 1971-85, three of which hit the top 10, and won a best comedy recording Grammy for 1973’s Los Cochinos. The pair also co-wrote and starred in eight films, starting with the 1978 stoner classic Up in Smoke.
Cheech and Chong also toured as a comedy act but broke up during the mid-’80s after years of squabbling. They reunited in 2008 for the Cheech and Chong Light Up America stand-up tour, which resulted in the 2010 documentary Hey Watch This.
During a news conference at the Troubadour in West Hollywood — where the duo was discovered in 1970 by producer Lou Adler — to announce the reunion tour, Chong took time to praise the medicinal benefits of marijuana. Then he jokingly credited pot for “all of my youthfulness, my … uh …” — “Memory,” Marin chimed in with a grin.
In this exclusive interview series, Tommy discusses how “Cheech & Chong” was born all the way through their incredible film career, break up, Operation Pipe Dreams, prison, his cancer diagnosis and treating his cancer with cannabis.