Tommy Chong Seeks Obama's Pardon for Drug Paraphernalia Conviction
Obama has issued 562 commutations during his presidency, hundreds of which have been for low-level drug offenses.
Tommy Chong spent nine months in prison back in 2003 for selling bongs across state lines, and now he is turning to President Barack Obama for help in order to expunge the felony.
The movie star and marijuana advocate told The Hollywood Reporter he is not bitter about the arrest, but he does believe now that times have changed with the growing legalization of pot, he should be let off the hook.
Chong has started a petition to the White House requesting a pardon before Obama leaves office. If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the White House must issue an official response. At the moment, it has more than 12,000.
"I think it has a very good chance because Obama has admitted to smoking pot," Chong tells THR. It also helps that Obama has issued 562 commutations during his presidency, hundreds of which have been for low-level drug offenses.
Chong says his case could not be more low-level.
"I was a celebrity bust," Chong tells THR. "[Authorities] basically entrapped me and my company by asking that we ship bongs across state lines. So when we did make a sale, they immediately arrested me and charged me with using the post office to sell illegal paraphernalia."
Chong, 78, spent nine months behind bars at Taft Correctional Institution in California. His bust was part of a federal investigation to go after distributors of drug paraphernalia. His celebrity status made him a prime target, he says. "It cost me close to a million dollars, including $150,000 in cash from other sales, like T-shirts," Chong says.
The comic and actor wants to both clear his name and go back into business selling bongs, which he can't currently do with a felony on his record, he says. "I never stopped making them, I just had to stop selling them."
"It feels great," he says. "I represent a nice portion of the community which is growing, our constituency is really growing with all the legalization going on. I'm in a really good position."