Tommy Chong, a 74-year-old longtime pro-marijuana activist and part of the stoner comedy duo Cheech & Chong, has offered his take on the recent legalization of pot on a local level in Washington and Colorado.
During the November elections, voters in both states approved measures to legalize pot for personal recreational use. They are among 18 states where cannabis is decriminalized if used, grown or sold for medicinal purposes, with various restrictions. Doing so is still illegal under federal law -- an issue that has spurred shutdowns of marijuana dispensaries by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Chong lives in California, one of the 18 states in question. He served nine months in federal prison in 2003 for conspiring to sell thousands of bongs online.
Chong recently said on Cenk Uygur's Current TV show "The Young Turks" that he thinks the new legislation in Washington and Colorado will make a "huge difference" in the lives of pot growers and users.
"It's going to bring about the legalization of hemp, for instance. You know, we're going to be able to grow hemp in this country again, eventually," he said, referring to a cannabis plant with a low concentration of THC, the ingredient that gets people "high."
Hemp had for centuries been cultivated for industrial purposes, as it can be used to make textiles, paper and clothing, and was even grown by U.S. presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The federal government passed a law in 1970 that bans people from growing it without a DEA permit.
"It's going to legalize hemp, it's also going to empty the jails and we're probably going to disband the DEA -- yay," Chong said about the new legislation, raising his fist in celebration. "Washington and Colorado, they're just ... the toe into the water. The whole body's following."
Chong revealed in June that he was diagnosed with stage one prostate cancer. He said that he was treating it with cannabis, specifically hemp oil. On June 15, he Tweeted: "Did I mention I am 99% cancer free? Thanks to my 'medication.' Hemp oil works but you have to believe.....I believe....tc."
A 2009 study carried out by researchers at New Zealand's University of Otago and published in the medical journal Cancer Letters found that "cannabinoids, the active components of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, along with their endogenous counterparts and synthetic derivatives, have elicited anti-cancer effects in many different in vitro and in vivo models of cancer."
Chong also joked that despite past government efforts to promote the War on Drugs and President Barack Obama's push last year to crack down on medicinal marijuana, the U.S. leader is "also a black guy from Hawaii who used to surf." Obama had said in his autobiography that he smoked pot and also tried cocaine when he was a student, calling them "bad decisions."
He later gave Uygur a gift.
"These are called 'Not a Pipe,'" he said, removing one of three long, hollow objects he had worn on strings around his neck. "You're not suppose to take them off and you're not suppose to take them out of the string and you're not supposed to put the substance in this end and you're not supposed to light it. Because it's not a pipe."
Fun facts: In addition to his comedy work with Cheech & Chong partner Cheech Marin, Chong is also an actor. He played hippie Leo Chingkwake on the sitcom "That '70s Show" and also had parts in films such as "Half Baked," a cult stoner comedy, and the animated 1992 movie "FernGully: The Last Rainforest," in which he and Marin both voiced "Beetle Boys," who are led by a male fairy portrayed by Christian Slater.