Sometimes the feds take on prosecutions which, but for their seriousness, make you scratch your head in wonder. One such prosecution was in 2003– the infamous “Operation Sweet Dreams,” which targeted bong makers and sellers.
Among those charged was counter-culture icon Tommy Chong. I represented Tommy, the only first-time offender of the group to receive jail time: nine months.
Attorney General at the time, John Ashcroft, and former Pittsburgh U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan took the ludicrous position that closing down bong makers and sellers would somehow reduce drug usage. Approximately 50 individuals from all over the country were prosecuted here in Pittsburgh. This is not a distinction we should be proud of.
Tommy’s son Paris, a glass blower, was creating and selling bongs over the internet, and Tommy and his wife had financed their son’s venture. The only way to assure that Tommy’s wife and son would not be prosecuted was for Tommy and Paris’ corporation to agree to plead guilty.
The feds received much well-deserved criticism for spending in excess of $12 million of our money to make the world safe from these 50 bongsters. However, the feds felt that by bagging America’s poster boy for marijuana, the public would somehow see what a significant prosecution this was.
Independent film maker Josh Gilbert made a wonderful, hilarious, and highly-acclaimed documentary of this wasteful and meaningless federal exercise. It is titled A.K.A. Tommy Chong and plays occasionally on Showtime.
I had the pleasure of making my film debut in this movie. Unfortunately, additional offers have not rolled in.
As an interesting sidenote, when the feds raided Tommy’s home in Los Angeles, they seized five pounds of marijuana which was Tommy’s personal stash. No law enforcement agency in L.A. was interested in prosecuting Tommy for possession of the five pounds, because the quantity was considered too insignificant!
Is there a lesson to be learned here?
–Stanton D. Levenson