The United States v Chong
I watched a movie today called A/K/A Tommy Chong. Its a documentary about the fuckwitted federal prosecution of Thomas “Tommy” B. Kin Chong for selling water pipes under the Operation Pipe Dream program that jackass John Ashcroft set up in 2003. From the wiki on Op Pipe Dream:
Operation Pipe Dreams was the code-name for a U.S. nationwide investigation in 2003 targeting businesses selling drug paraphernalia, mostly marijuana pipes and bongs, under a little-used statute (Title 21, Chapter 13, Subchapter 1, Part D, Section 863(a)) of the U.S. Code.
The outcome of Operation Pipe Dreams was hundreds of businesses and homes being raided and 55 people being named in indictments, charged with trafficking in illegal drug paraphernalia. While 54 of the 55 individuals charged as a result of the operations were sentenced to fines and home detentions, actor Tommy Chong was sentenced on 11 September 2003 to 9 months in a federal prison, forfeiture of $103,000, and a year of probation. The Federal Prosecution admitted being intentionally harsher on Chong in retaliation, citing Chong’s movies as trivializing “law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking and use.”
Yes, those water pipes, the ones used to consume cannabis. The ones you can buy in any head shop or tobacco store in the U.S. They didn’t go after heroin, crack or meth sellers…they went after pot paraphenalia sellers.
Mr. Chong did nine months right down the road from Bakersfield, at the Taft Correctional Facility. He entered into a plea bargain so as to protect his wife and son from prosecution. He was fined over $100k as well.
Operation Pipe Dream cost American taxpayers over $12 Million bucks. It netted 55 individuals. Of the 55 people targeted in the investigation, Chong was the only one without previous convictions who received jail time. When asked why Mr. Chong received jail time, the prosecuting fucktard, US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan stated:
“He (Tommy Chong) wasn’t the biggest supplier. He was a relatively new player, but he had the ability to market products like no other.”
So basically he was treated harsher than any of the other 54 individuals because of who he was, not what he had done.
Our government spent roughly $218,181.00 per individual arrested. At least what we know they spent…you know how BushCo is about providing the truth about anything…From the films website:
a/k/a Tommy Chong chronicles the entrapment and incarceration of comedy icon Tommy Chong of the legendary comedy duo, Cheech and Chong. Josh Gilbert takes on the event in his documentary, and offers a sometimes frightening, often hilarious account of Operation Pipe Dreams, a nationwide drug paraphernalia sting spearheaded by a federal prosecutor named Mary Beth Buchanan, appointed by George Bush three short days after the attacks of 9/11.
After fully armed SWAT teams raided the comedian’s home and his business, Chong Glass, Chong was sentenced to 9 months in federal prison for “conspiracy to manufacture and distribute drug paraphernalia through his family business, specializing in handmade glass water pipes, or “bongs”. Of the 55 defendants prosecuted, Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong was the only one with no prior convictions to receive jail time. Justifying the sentence, George Bush’s appointee, Mary Beth Buchanan cited the classic Cheech and Chong comedy Up In Smoke as evidence that Tommy Chong had become wealthy “trivializing law enforcement efforts to combat marijuana trafficking and use.” As Roger Ebert said after viewing the film, “You do not have to approve of drugs to be offended.”
The film provides a charming portrait of a counter culture icon set against the backdrop of a War on Drugs gone horribly awry.
It makes me very, very angry that people will buy into bullshit based on fear alone. Common sense is tossed aside and fear rules the day and the brain. Tommy is now an activist, he is on the board of NORML, and talks to groups about the persecution of cannibis smokers. He has stated that the bust and jail time did something no one else could…make him an activist against the bullshit laws used to incarcerate cannabis smokers and sellers.
See the movie on Showtime, buy it…but don’t think for one minute that people aren’t rotting in jail’s all over America for bullshit such as this…because they are people….they surely are.
Fun facts on cannabis, from NORML:
According to recent statistics provided by the federal government, nearly 80 million Americans admit having smoked marijuana. Of these, twenty million Americans smoked marijuana during the past year. The vast majority of marijuana smokers, like most other Americans, are good citizens who work hard, raise families, pay taxes and contribute in a positive way to their communities. They are certainly not part of the crime problem in this country, and it is terribly unfair to continue to treat them as criminals.
Many successful business and professional leaders, including many state and elected federal officials, admit they have smoked marijuana. We must reflect this reality in our state and federal laws, and put to rest the myth that marijuana smoking is a fringe or deviant activity engaged in only by those on the margins of American society. Marijuana smokers are no different from their non-smoking peers, except for their marijuana use.
Why should we decriminalize or legalize marijuana?
As President Jimmy Carter acknowledged: “Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use.”
Marijuana prohibition needlessly destroys the lives and careers of literally hundreds of thousands of good, hard-working, productive citizens each year in this country. More than 700,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges last year, and more than 5 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana offenses in the past decade. Almost 90 percent of these arrests are for simple possession, not trafficking or sale. This is a misapplication of the criminal sanction that invites government into areas of our private lives that are inappropriate and wastes valuable law enforcement resources that should be focused on serious and violent crime.
In jail for simple possession? It’s wrong…on every level…especially financial ones if that is the only way rightwingers will be able to justify prosecuting cannabis smokers.
Update: Seems NORML is on the same track, worrying and wondering what Obama will do regarding the relaxing of federal prosecutions of cannabis smokers…it doesn’t look good according to Allen St. Pierre and his latest article on the site regarding AG nominee Eric Holder:
“NORML has serious concerns about the choice of Eric Holder as the next Attorney General because he has a long history of opposing drug policy reforms, perceiving cannabis smoking by adults as a public nuisance worthy of constant harrassment, promoting violent governmental intervention into the private lives of citizens who consume cannabis, supporting mandatory minimum sentencing and so-called civil forfeiture laws.
His attraction to the myth of ‘fixing broken windows’ and using law enforcement to crack down on petty crimes will swell an already overburdened, bloated, expensive and failed government prohibition against otherwise law-abiding citizens who choose to consume cannabis.”“NORML has serious concerns about the choice of Eric Holder as the next Attorney General because he has a long history of opposing drug policy reforms, perceiving cannabis smoking by adults as a public nuisance worthy of constant harrassment, promoting violent governmental intervention into the private lives of citizens who consume cannabis, supporting mandatory minimum sentencing and so-called civil forfeiture laws.
His attraction to the myth of ‘fixing broken windows’ and using law enforcement to crack down on petty crimes will swell an already overburdened, bloated, expensive and failed government prohibition against otherwise law-abiding citizens who choose to consume cannabis.”
This just shows candidates will say anything to get elected. Its so damn fucked up.