I spent all night getting high with Tommy Chong
It’s a Thursday night, roughly 44 hours after Donald Trump took the final Electoral College lead from Hillary Clinton, one of which she’d never recover. As with most largely democratic cities, the surrounding mood in town was one of despair, of lost hope. Only a few blocks down, hundreds of protestors were blocking traffic, shouting “Fuck You” towards the night sky for anyone to listen.
This wasn’t a night I particularly wanted to go out on. I would have been fine staying home. A weed release party in the midst of all this seemed surreal — like the country had finally gotten one thing right, all while the rest of it was crumbling around us. The vibes, they were not dope.
But since the election, something Tommy Chong told me just a few short weeks back continued to loiter at the forefront of my mind. “We lived through Nixon,” he said while musing about a Trump presidency. He wasn’t worried about it, and neither should any of us, he said. It made sense now more than ever.
Chong and his team have been planning this event for months. He — along with the hard-working men and women of Verde grow house — have had it locked in since the partnership was created. Chong, after all, is a legend in the marijuana culture, and having his name branded on select strains is a big deal to many in Colorado. For at least one evening this week, he wanted to be sure everyone enjoyed themselves and shared in his vision for a better future.
So I went, and got to the venue a bit earlier than I should have, well before the music started and staff found their respective areas to monitor. But the space, Cultivated Synergy, had plenty of couches occupying corners to sit down on. So I anchored and sparked up conversation with a contest winner in the same area. He was excited to be there, pressing anyone he could about free swag and whether or not he could smoke inside.
You could. In fact, just a short time later, men and women with glow-sticks around their necks began passing out pre-rolled joints — purple necklaces for indica, green for sativa and orange for hybrid. I pocketed mine for later. Free weed, after all, is still a glorious thing in 2016, especially for those of us who grew up in the ‘90s still marveling at the industry. It’s a short rush I hope never goes away.
So a few minutes pass and the DJs finally plug in. The crowd of young and old begins to sway in perfect unison underneath a massive plume of smoke crawling up towards the rafters. The night had finally begun.
Through it all, no one said anything about the life left behind on the outside. It was simply casual conversation about future endeavors, favorite strains and whether or not business cards have become completely irrelevant in the age of the Internet. For most, they hadn’t, it was still a thing to do. Plenty handed out as many cards as they possibly could.
It took a few hours for the man of the night to come out of his VIP area. When he did, Tommy Chong, nearing 80 years old, was noticeably worn-out, likely from the barrage of work he had to do the entire day before the release. Yet, he still took to the mic with a natural ease, commanding the crowd into a hushed frenzy while cracking jokes that probably didn’t make much sense to anyone sober. He thanked his family, his team, his supporters, but mainly wanted to make the night about positivity, about continuing the movement regardless of political fuckery.
He then sat down in front of a photo booth — kind of like Santa Claus if the jolly old fat man had consumed a few too many Christmas blunts. Most everyone took his or her turn in getting a chance to meet him.
I grabbed my opportunity, too. It felt silly, but I wanted to thank him for what he told me in our earlier interview. I hadn’t been personally torn about the results of the election, but many of my peers had been, and for me to repeat his words as comfort helped a few of them. We have to listen to people older than us, it’s senior knowledge, I’d say alongside Tommy’s words. Four years is going to fly by.
“It’s been a great week, hasn’t it?” Tommy said to me with an earnest smile as I sat down next to him. It had been, actually. There’s been worse. “We all gotta keep pushing on, nothing else to do than that,” he continued.
He was right. What would life be if not for the ups and downs? It’s something he’s familiar with having been a marijuana advocate for decades while the rest of the country shit on the very idea. He held true to his beliefs, and now finally has the support of an industry to grow this very movement. He never gave up, and wants the rest of the world to understand that they shouldn’t either.
It was an unfortunate feeling in the room that night, the election. It was almost like a social humidity. Everyone knew it was there, sticking uncomfortably to their clothing — but something of even that magnitude became easy to ignore surrounded by great food, incredible company and tons of weed being handed out like Halloween candy. For a night, the Tommy Chong strains release party was an oasis hidden deep within a tumultuous conversation. This night, nobody seemed to care.
Which is what it’s all about, really. Defining a specific path and sticking to it, regardless of the elite's rhetoric and what they promise to do for everyone to fall in line. Great men and women never made history sticking to the rules.
Had a Trump Administration came into power some 20 years ago, the conversation would be different. There would be no weed industry and there would be no argument to the contrary. But now, almost 70 percent of the nation’s population is okay with it and financial experts feel like it will be a $30 billion industry in the quickly coming years. That’s how things happen in this country, with the support of community and enterprise — with nights like this, in the face of continuing adversity.
No one really knows what’s to come of the country over the next four years. What we do have in spite of confusion is a continuing narrative about where we want to be as a people. Some stand on the other side of that, well within their right to do so. Others shrug off obstacles and push for what they believe is right.
Funny how simple celebrity branding can gain a higher significance based off of an election’s crazy results. Chong’s Choice is now a symbol of freedom, a protest of its own.
Witjh it, Tommy’s still screaming “Fuck You” at the sky, and this time, everybody’s listening.
Photo Credits: Kim Sidwell for Cannabis Camera