Canadian-born Tommy Chong, 82, is best known as half of the legendary comedy duo Cheech & Chong (their website here). With six gold plates and eight films during their reign, Cheech & Chong defined a pot era with their unique brand “stoner comedy”.
After the duo split in 1985, Chong continued to work in film and television, playing an aging hippie photo shop at The 70’s show, recently joined The masked singer and Dance with the stars. Twenty years ago, he was reunited with Cheech Marin and today entered the regulated cannabis market with his Tommy Chong Cannabis brand and Cheech and Chong Dispensary (marketed by Five Point Holdings).
A father of five, married Shelby Fiddis for 45 years, up to and including the 2003 nine-month prison sentence for sending bongs to Pennsylvania and a fight against cancer has failed to suppress his passion for the high life. He talks about it with Senior Planet:
SP: Is this not your first pot rodeo rodeo?
TC: No. After I was imprisoned in 2003, my son received different versions of Chong Weed and Cheech made his own brand in 2007.
SP: How is your brand different from other celebrity brands?
TC: We are not musicians who use our hobby like Willie Nelson or Snoop who just give their names. We are not just pot comedians ̵1; from our albums Up in smoke – but also the first pot activists. We have been growers and users forever. Our big Bamboo rolling paper is still selling like crazy. We do it in a very intelligent way and open our first two stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles this year with hopefully more to follow.
SP: Was it hard to finish the pot in jail?
TC: As soon as I was arrested, I stopped smoking because I was tested for drugs in advance. If you violate, they can add more fees to your rap park. So I quit smoking for three years and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in prison during the time I was there not smoking.
SP: Does the pot get a bad rap?
TC: Yes, because marijuana is not addictive – unlike cigarettes, heroin or alcohol. I know this because I did the drug education program in prison and learned a lot.
SP: Any advice for seniors who want to experiment, was it legal?
TC: Do your research and know what you are putting into your body – do not do what someone tells you. As Trump says to use Lysol. I give small peppermint breathing strips with 10 mg THC to friends who do not smoke the pot. It helps them sleep during the night and helps with anxiety. Dispensaries carry them in practical small packages.
SP: Your claim to beat prostate cancer with a cannabis oil protocol was very controversial. Can you explain?
TC: For my actual treatment, I did chemo pills and radiation and then I used Rick Simpson oil (concentrated cannabis oil) during my recovery. Marijuana goes straight to the brain and immune system and calms your body so you can heal while staying in the moment.
Then while I did Dance with the stars, I got rectal cancer and had radiation, chemo pills and surgery so that they completely cleared out the cancer and I used marijuana to heal after. I’m cancer free as far as I know.
SP: You’ve been with your wife, Shelby, for almost 50 years. Any marriage tips?
TC: I tell men in my life that they must worship their wives because we are so happy to have them. I had dinner with Sugar Ray Leonard and we talked about how we are married to these beautiful but bossy women. You need to let them know, in one way or another, how much you really love them and who takes care of everything.
SP: Are you still hanging out with Cheech?
TC: Yes, we do autograph sessions together and visit each other’s houses. We were on our way before the pandemic but he needed knee surgery so we stopped touring the day before they stopped live entertainment. We will always be tough.
SP: Do you recognize each time you go out?
TC: yes! Even with a mask. A professional basketball player recognized me at a restaurant. I went to my little poodle the other day and this hip guy said he grew up with my movies in Iran. We are recognized all over the world.
SP: How do you stay in shape?
TC: I use rubber bands for upper body training, switching between legs and upper body every day. Even in the hospital I did planks and sit-ups. If I do not exercise, I feel bad. People age poorly when their blood stops circulating.
SP: What is your secret to aging with attitude?
TC: The truth is that I was lucky to find God when I was very young. I was separated from my parents because I had pleurisy and my mother had tuberculosis and was in a sanitarium and my dad was in World War II so I never really saw them until I was four years old. I was in a salvation home for the Salvation Army and all the nurses pampered me because I was a cute little brown guy. Every day started with Christian songs, and I have kept it with me all my life so that I have a relationship with God that is incredible and creates miracles. I take all my problems to God and they disappear. That’s my secret to why I’m still strong.
Want to see how it all started? Take a look here!
Photo credit Neil Visel