ommy Chong is no longer a stoner, says Matt Diehl in Maxim. As half of the hippie comedy team of Cheech and Chong, he used to riff endlessly about the joys and wonders of marijuana. “Pot is a gift from God,” Chong would say. “You share it.” But all that changed in 2003, when he pleaded guilty to a charge of selling drug paraphernalia over the Internet and served nine months in prison. “I’d been smoking pot for 50 years, but I quit when I was incarcerated,” he says. “I was offered pot every day, but it didn’t make much sense to me to break the law behind bars.” Chong now thinks his time behind bars was a blessing in disguise. “Prison was a defining moment in my life that I knew was coming. I just knew there was some very freaky s--- coming down. I talked to the bongs, asking them, ‘What are you trying to tell me?’ But a bong is not going to start speaking, you know. It was crazy.” Prison gave him time to reflect on his life and to get in touch with his true self. “I turned my jail time into a religious retreat and the time just flew by. I was like a monk—I could almost walk on water by the end.” Chong, now 71, last year reunited with Cheech Marin for a successful tour, and says he never felt better. “I’m always high, even though I don’t smoke pot anymore. I have reached nirvana.”
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