OR: Cannabis Conference Draws Tommy Chong, Hundreds To Ashland


No one denies that cannabis is a growing business. So it wasn’t unexpected that the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference on Saturday, Nov. 19, in Ashland, drew hundreds of people across state lines.

What was surprising was praise for President-elect Donald Trump by speaker Tommy Chong, part of the stoner-themed comic duo Cheech & Chong.

Chong, who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential election, was met with silence at first in the crowded ballroom at the Ashland Hills Hotel and Suites as he tried to reassure cannabis advocates concerned over Trump and his appointees.

They are especially worried about climate-change deniers and U.S. Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), who thinks "good people don’t smoke marijuana."

But Chong speculates that Sessions and others will have an "intellectual change" if educated.

"It’s only ignorance that makes people think one way," Chong said. "These people no longer have to worry about getting elected and they now work for the government. They will have to become the most learned people" in their field.

National polls show a solid majority of Americans support legalization of marijuana.

Voters approving recreational marijuana use in California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine, and medical marijuana in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas in the Nov. 8 election has ramped up interest in growing and selling pot.

Recreational marijuana use was already legal in Oregon, as well as Washington, Colorado, Alaska and the District of Columbia. Voter response has put added pressure on federal authorities to ease longstanding rules that classify marijuana as a dangerously addictive drug with no medical benefits.

Law enforcement groups, anti-drug crusaders and other opponents say legalization would endanger children and open the door to another huge industry that, like big tobacco, would be devoted to selling Americans an unhealthy drug, reported the Associated Press.

The conference had speakers like cannabis grower and advocate Ed Rosenthal and Oregon Liquor Control Commissioner Rob Patridge, as well as vendors selling water systems to real estate.

The biggest draw was Chong, 78, who told the crowd that he was never a Trump supporter. A cancer survivor, he says he named his colostomy bag "Donald" because of what it’s full of.

Yet he’s hopeful that the New York businessman-turned-politician will not turn his back on the profit to be made in marijuana. "Colorado’s biggest problem is figuring out what to do with all the money they’re making from pot," Chong said.

Sales of marijuana products in Washington state, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, were more than $200 million in the second quarter of 2016, according to AP.

Chong, who lives near the ocean in Pacific Palisades, west of Los Angeles, promoted his new medical marijuana line, Chong’s Choice. In 2003-2004, he plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute drug paraphernalia with his Chong’s Bongs and served nine months in federal prison.

Chong joked that Trump wanting his family to serve with him was "hippie."

"As stoners, we control the vibe of the world. It’s not by accident that stoners find the most beautiful places in the world to have their meetings," he said, gesturing out toward Ashland. "If you control your own vibe, you control other people’s vibe. The more people who get stoned, the more love spreads. Love is healing."

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Cannabis Conference Draws Tommy Chong, Hundreds To Ashland
Author: Janet Eastman
Contact: OregonLive
Photo Credit: Janet Eastman
Website: OregonLive