Tommy Chong goes to prison for selling bongs. The ''Up in Smoke'' comedian insists he?s become an antidrug crusader

By Gary Susman
October 10, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Tommy Chong, who’s made a career out of drug humor, reported to a minimum-security federal prison near Bakersfield, Calif., on Wednesday to begin serving time for selling designer glass bongs via his website, the Associated Press reports. The 65-year-old comic was sentenced to nine months, though his attorneys are preparing an appeal.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab, who sentenced Chong on Sept. 11, was due to hear a defense request for the comic’s release on Oct. 16, and Chong’s lawyers are also seeking an appeal of the sentence from the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The defense has argued that the ”That ’70s Show” actor should be sentenced no more harshly than others convicted in the current federal crackdown on sellers of drug paraphernalia, meaning no more than six months’ house arrest and six months’ probation.

Chong was due to reunite early next year with former partner Richard ”Cheech” Marin to film the first ”Cheech & Chong” movie in 20 years. It’s not clear whether that project is now up in smoke.

At his sentencing, Chong said he had quit smoking pot and wanted to use his celebrity to crusade against drugs. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Houghton argued that Chong made his fortune glamorizing drug use and trivializing law enforcement in his films, adding that Chong used his movie persona to promote his Intenet head shop. We’re not sure whether it’s a criminal offense to glamorize drug use or trivialize law enforcement, but we’re also not sure how one goes about using one’s celebrity both to discourage drug use and to sell bongs.