Hazel Park Honors Tommy Chong with Key to City (video)

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(Crystal A. Proxmire and Guest Interviewer Deb Young, April 3, 2015)

Famed comedian and marijuana activist Tommy Chong charmed hundreds of fans when he appeared at BDT’s Smoke Shop in Hazel Park on April 3 to sign autographs, sell posters and pipes, and accept the key to the city from the mayor and city manager.

The 76-year-old built a comedy career as part of the pot-smoking duo Cheech and Chong, along with Richard “Cheech” Marin, in the 1970s. Chong’s passion for the pot plant has landed him in jail over the years, most recently in 2004 for selling paraphernalia in Pennsylvania. His focus now continues to be on manufacturing smoking supplies, and continuing to do comedy with Marin. He said the duo has been looking at property across the county so they can open up Cheech and Chong-themed clubs, and that Detroit should be one of those locations.

dinos02sidelogo3As City Manager Ed Klobucher read a proclamation honoring him for his years of talent, Chong poked him in the ear with a joint, which he then gave to Mayor Janice Pairsi after she handed him the engraved brass key to the city. “On behalf of all the stoners in the world, I’d like to present the Mayor of Hazel Park with my version of the key to the world,” he said.

BDT has been “keeping Detroit rollin’” since 1973, and last year Hazel Park passed a local ordinance allowing individuals to possess an ounce or less of marijuana. City by city legalization efforts have been taking place across the state and a group called Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative is hoping to put it on the ballot for a state-wide vote in 2016.

Rick Thompson, publisher of Compassion Chronicles, is part of the movement for legalization. He and other heavy-hitters came to the Hazel Park event, which is the warm up for HasRed Door Realty Ad _own_your_dreamh Bash in Ann Arbor over the weekend. “The smell of freedom is in the air in Hazel Park,” Thompson said. “Any time we can get a famous celebrity to Michigan it’s a big deal. But to get a pro-marijuana celebrity to come to Michigan it’s a really big deal.”

Chong said that legalization on a national level “is inevitable.” But when asked how long it would take he did not know. “We thought back in the 50s that it would be legal in the 60s since so many lawyers do it, but as it turns out in 2015 they’re still arresting people.”

While City officials in Hazel Park are committed to upholding the will of the people from the 2014 election, smokers and sellers can still be prosecuted under state and federal law. With medical marijuana laws still being refined by the courts, the smoke has still not cleared even in communities that are pro-pot. Among the well-known faces in the line of hundreds waiting to seed010_todd_blakenshipmeet Chong, was Steve and Maria Green of Lansing, whose battle with authorities over medical marijuana almost cost them custody of Marie’s child Bree. Bree was just 8 months old when the State of Michigan removed her from the couple’s home because Steve and Marie were both registered medical marijuana patients. Michigan’s medical marijuana law prohibited this, “unless the person’s behavior is such that it creates an unreasonable danger to the minor that can be clearly articulated and substantiated.” The state failed to prove this danger and the family was reunited. They drove from Lansing in hopes of getting an autograph from a man who paved the way towards acceptance for the plant. “We know how society is going on this and we know the laws are going to change. We’re good parents and for the state to take that much time, and break up a good royal_servicesfamily, over medicine is just unbelievable,” Steve said. Steve smokes medical marijuana to help him with epilepsy and Maria has multiple sclerosis.

Poet and longtime activist John Sinclair also came to show support for Chong. 44 years ago the Hash Bah began to show support for Sinclair, who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling two joints to an undercover officer. John Lennon and Yoko Ono came to Ann Arbor to lead a rally calling for Sinclair’s freedom. This weekend Chong and Sinclair will share the stage. But in Hazel Park, Sinclair silently took in the crowd while eating a Subway foot-long in the trailer set up for the stars.

Deb Young,sidebar01sponsor who worked with Andrew Cissell, to spearhead the local legalization efforts in Hazel Park, Ferndale, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods and Berkley was able to meet Chong personally as a guest interviewer for Oakland County 115.

“What’s your favorite strain?” She asked.

“Anything that is given to me by a naked woman,” Chong replied.

Young and Chong also chatted about comedy in general. Chong said he’s a fan of Kevin Hart, Chris Rock and Amy Schumer.

Chong also explained that cell phones are great for the marijuana movement. “The cell phonelisa schmidt law has liberated everybody,” he said. “You can’t lie anymore. You lie and everybody’s got this in their hand.”

Chong shares the honor of having the keys to Hazel Park with Mixed Martial Arts fighter Myles Jury. Jury received the key in Sept. 2014.

Learn more about the comedy and business of Cheech and Chong at www.cheechandchong.com.

Check out Tommy Chong’s product Smoke Swipe at http://www.chongswipes.com/.

And learn more about BDT Smoke Shop at http://www.bdthazelpark.com/.

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