“I’m celebrating my first day of freedom,” is the first thing out of Tommy Chong’s mouth when we spoke via telephone on Nov. 26. “I just came from the (‘Dancing with the Stars’) Mirror Ball Competition, and now I’m going to the Cannabis Cup.”
That Chong, one of marijuana’s most notable spokesmen, can jump directly from one of ABC’s biggest television shows to one of counterculture’s most celebrated events speaks to pot’s growing global position in 2014.
That said, primetime TV isn’t quite ready for dancing pot activists.
ABC owner Disney did censor Chong, he said, during his impressive stay on “Dancing with the Stars,” which saw him cha-cha-ing his way to the show’s semi-finals before being cut on Nov. 17 — the oldest contestant in the show’s history to make it that far.
“It’s a Disney station,” Chong told The Cannabist, “ABC is owned by Disney, so they’re very family oriented. I was throwing ‘marijuana kisses’ to the audience in the beginning, and they asked me not to do that. They didn’t stop me from talking about pot every chance I got. But they did have me stop doing the after-dance talk, because I would talk dirty or steer it toward the pot angle. So they isolated me.
“But it didn’t matter because I was there.”
First up: Marijuana kisses?
“I’d look like I was taking a hit and throw them out to the audience,” Chong said. “It was a physical act of a stoner getting high and throwing the roaches to the audience. The audience and the crew loved it, but the producers told me about standards and practices, they blamed them, that they’d have to cut to the mirror ball every time I did that.”
Secondly: Chong on a primetime network was a statement in itself.
“They were acknowledging the (marijuana) culture by having me on there and showing everybody that I’m 76 and I’m still in the kind of shape where I can do this,” said Chong, who was promoting his new Smoke Swipe products, which he said cover marijuana and tobacco odor on clothing and hair.
On one incident, the show’s producers asked Chong and his dance partner Peta Murgatroyd to re-tape one of their entrances because of something marijuana-related he had done, Chong said. So he understood the game — and actually gave up ingesting marijuana for the show’s duration.
“I quit it all during the dance contest just to make a point that I’m not addicted to anything,” Chong said. “If I quit smoking pot, if that’s going to help my memory with the dance steps and all that, I should at least try it. And I did. And I had no problem.
“I quit it before when I went to jail. I had almost three years of no smoking, and I had no problem. They wanted me to violate my drug test, but I didn’t. If I had (smoked it then) they would have justified my incarceration or given me more time, but I didn’t want to.”
Is pot addictive?
Chong wasn’t the only pot aficionado on “Dancing With the Stars.” A lot of the professional dancers partake regularly, he said, and they were disappointed they couldn’t light up with such a legendary pot figure. But Chong did leave a parting gift at the season’s wrap party for one unnamed dance pro.
“I left the wrap party before (the dancers) showed up,” Chong said, “but I left a big bag (of weed) with the security guard to give the dancer who smoked the most.”
Regardless of ABC’s censoring Chong’s marijuana kisses, he has no hard feelings for the network or the experience. He called Season 19 winner Alfonso Ribeiro “beautiful” and everyone else in the cast and crew “super-nice people.”
“I’ve got no complaints with the network at all,” he said. “They bent over backwards to accommodate me — and to keep their straight audience.”
Check out Chong’s debut dance on “DWTS” with Peta Murgatroyd, the cha cha: