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It’s Time the Cannabis Industry Deep Sixed the “Stoner” Image

I really like Tommy Chong.

Back in my younger years, when Tommy and his partner Cheech Marin were famous as Cheech and Chong, their stoner bit was hilarious and entertaining. Like a lot of people, I really thought it was funny.

But, the stoner act gets old, and a lot has happened since they were at the peak of their popularity in the 1970s.

So this makes me wonder: Why in the world would the Cannabis Industry want Tommy Chong to be an industry spokesperson given the current state of the marijuana world?

Just today, I saw yet another story about Tommy Chong in the Sacramento Bee. It said, it part:

Chong, who turns 78 in May, is re-emerging as a wry sage in the marijuana politics movement. He stars in a viral video endorsement for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, in which he backs the Vermont senator as the next “Commander in Kush.”

He has also become cannabis products pitchman in this unprecedented era of expanding marijuana legalization.

This weekend, Chong has been a speaker, party guest and sought-out presence at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco, a teeming industry and activism event underscoring marijuana’s changing place in politics, commerce and culture.”

OK, I get that more and more celebrities are moving into the legal cannabis space, and being able to tout that people like Roseanne Barr and Woody Harrelson feel strongly enough that they want to add some of their star power and invest in the industry is a good thing.
But, I wonder — does the industry really want to embrace the whole “stoner” thing today?
Although  there have been huge breakthroughs as more and more state’s look to legalize marijuana in some shape or form, there is still a lot of resistance to legalization, particularly at the Federal level. And, that resistance continues to make it possible for legitimate cannabis companies to take part in the banking system or write business expenses off on their taxes the way other businesses do.
And, reminding everyone of the “stoner” culture isn’t going to help with that.
I am sure that Tommy Chong is a wonderful person. Everything that I have read about him, and everyone who knows him, talks about what a great guy he is. I’m sure that is true.
But, this isn’t about how wonderful Tommy Chong is in 2016, it’s about how people just can’t get the “stoner” bit out of their heads.
Having a spokesperson and prominent advocate for the Cannabis Industry who is so closely associated with the negative “stoner” culture isn’t going to help the push for legitimacy one bit.
Yes, I like Tommy Chong, but I wish that someone in the industry would step and an ask, “is this really the image we want people to be remembering right now?” I thought this had happened at one point when the National Cannabis Industry Association dropped Chong from its Capitol Hill lobbying push, but now it seems like we are reversing course and going back to him again.
If the Cannabis Industry wants to be taken seriously, it needs to have a serious image and public persona. Reminding people of the “stoner” days just makes that effort a whole lot harder.
This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. This author, although sincere in message, has obviously missed 2 major points as to WHY the cannabis community would rally behind someone like Tommy Chong:
    1- Tommy Chong is a cancer survivor who credits marijuana with helping him during his battle, and recovery.
    2 – Tommy Chong was arrested in 2003, under the federal government’s “Operation Pipe Dreams,” where legally operating head shop owners and glass makers were rounded up and arrested. Tommy Chong did 9 months in jail for the simple fact that he leant his name to a brand of glass pipes.

    Yes, Tommy Chong was once stoner comedian, but he has evolved in the eyes of the public, and the eyes of the cannabis industry. This same evolution that has taken place is why “normal” business people are throwing their hats and money in into the cannabis ring, which shows me the industry has been successful in shedding many of its previous connotations.

  2. I disagree. As a stoner and businessman, I work with other people of that description. Business is about trust, and it is hard to trust people and take them seriously when they are completely alien to cannabis culture. In my limited experience, the non-stony biz types rarely have good produce. Sometimes they dont know what they are selling. People in the industry tend to assume that they are into makin the paper as a highest priority, and that erodes trust. I dont think we should all be habitual oversmokers, but the industry exists within the culture.

  3. I buy insurance from people like the author; I buy dope from people like Tommy Chong. Oooh! He used the “D” word! Sorry, I forgot–this is the CANNABIS industry.

  4. Don’t be deterred by the push-back. There is a new day coming, and the counter culture roots of this industry will not always dictate the form of the branches.

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