While 4/20 might be the official ‘unofficial stoner holiday,’ May 24th remains a significant date in marijuana lore in its own right—it’s 1/2 of the legendary comedy duo Cheech and Chong’s birthday. And today especially, is an extra special celebratory day for potheads and marijuana advocates alike, as the stoner comedy pioneer Tommy Chong turns 80.
Chong, who has advocated for legal marijuana since his early stoner comedy days, is now beginning to see his dreams come to fruition. What a long, strange journey it’s been for the musician-turned-comedian-turned-cannabis rights advocate. Well, technically, he’s always been the latter.
Chong’s career first started back in Calgary, where he began playing the guitar at 16 years-old.
“I played guitar to make money. I was about 16 when I discovered that music could get you laid, even if you were a scrawny, long-haired, geeky-looking guy like me,” Chong once said in an interview.
By 1965, Chong and his band, Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers, signed with Gordy Records and recorded their debut eponymous album. Their first single, “Does Your Mama Know About Me,” was co-written by Chong, and peaked at 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
However, after releasing two additional singles, the group broke up after Chong and bandmate Wes Henderson were fired from Motown for failing to acquire green cards to become U.S. citizens.
Chong then returned to Vancouver, British Columbia, to run a couple of local strip joints with his brother. It was there that he met the youthful Richard …