Newsbrief: Tommy Chong Walks Out of Prison 7/9/04

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Counterculture icon Tommy Chong walked out of federal prison Tuesday after serving a nine-month sentence as part of the Justice Department's crackdown on bongs, known as Operation Pipedream. Chong was released from the federal Bureau of Prisons Taft Correctional Facility in California.

Tommy Chong went to prison because his company, Chong Glass, made the mistake of selling bongs to head shops in Western Pennsylvania, home to one of two US Attorneys who build careers on bong busts. (The other is in Des Moines.) But he also went to prison in part because of his history as an actor, along with Cheech Marin, in a series of pro-marijuana films in the 1970s and early 1980s. At his sentencing, prosecutors urged that his prior conduct be taken into account.

Attorney General John Ashcroft crowed at the time of Chong's arrest. "Quite simply, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge," he claimed. "This illegal, billion-dollar industry will no longer be ignored by law enforcement."

It largely had been before. But for Ashcroft the bong-makers of America apparently were a threat worthy of the Justice Department's limited resources, and Tommy Chong the perfect symbolic victim. So what if the federal prosecutors, in all too familiar fashion, had to threaten his wife and children to get him to accept a plea deal. That's the American prosecutors' way.

Welcome back to the land of the living, Tommy Chong.

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Issue #345, 7/9/04 Editorial: Time for Congress to Get Real | In the Wake of Blakely: Federal Sentencing Chaos as Defense Attorneys, Prosecutors, Lawmakers Ponder How to Respond | House Votes Down Medical Marijuana Bill -- Election Year Politics, Organized Opposition Cited | International AIDS Conference Puts Focus on Thai War on Drugs | Making it Official: More Initiatives Move Toward November Ballot | ALERT: "Thank or Spank" Your Congressman for This Week's Medical Marijuana Vote | Newsbrief: Rep. Ron Paul Brings Pain Doctor Prosecution Issue to House | Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects DEA Motion for New Hemp Hearing | Newsbrief: Kansas Supreme Court Says Cut Methamphetamine Sentences | Newsbrief: Tommy Chong Walks Out of Prison | Newsbrief: Iranians Protest US, UK Blind Eye to Afghan Opium Crop | Newsbrief: United Arab Emirates Ponders First Step Toward Harm Reduction | Newsbrief: Head of National Drug Intelligence Center Fired | Newsbrief: Prohibition as a Marketing Tool -- Camel Ad Campaign Touts "Forbidden Fruit" Appeal | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: California Prisons "Dysfunctional," State Report Concludes | Movie Opening: Maria Full of Grace | Media Scan: New CSDP Ad -- Richard Paey and Rush Limbaugh | This Week in History | Psilocybin Cancer Research Study Still Seeking Participants | The Reformer's Calendar
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