Side Note

Don’t say Tommy Chong is the face of your weed company unless you’re Tommy Chong

Yesterday was the 80th birthday of Tommy Chong, the man who, as part of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong, helped create the popular conception of the “stoner” in American culture. His Wikipedia page reads like the world’s punchiest picaresque novel. My favorite part involves him going to prison for selling bongs online and giving his bunkmate, noted financial criminal Jordan “The Wolf of Wall Street Guy” Belfort, the idea to write a memoir that Martin Scorsese would eventually turn into The Wolf of Wall Street.

In recent years, Chong has cashed in on the whole legal weed thing; he’s currently the face of the cannabis brand Chong’s Choice. According to an interview that ran yesterday, he (very enthusiastically) tests every product personally before it goes to market.

However, Tommy Chong is not the only person who had the idea to base a weed brand around Tommy Chong. Earlier this week, the SEC charged a company called Bud Genius with “defrauding investors by making exaggerated and misleading claims about the medical marijuana company’s business operations and financial condition.” This includes, per an SEC press release, Bud Genius CEO Aaron Stanz allegedly claiming that the company had reached a licensing agreement with Tommy Chong and that [Chong] was a “partner” in the business — even though he wasn't. In exchange for not disputing the SECçs charges, Stanz will pay a fine and won't be able to run a public company for five years (the agreement, while struck, is pending court approval).

Marijuana exists in a legal grey area, where everything is tenuous and confusing and feels like it could all go away at any second. That sort of regulatory landscape can lead to people trying out weird ideas that might secretly be brilliant. But it can also lead to crazy shit, like Bud Genius getting in trouble with the SEC for pretending to be Tommy Chong’s weed brand the same week Tommy Chong gave an interview about his actual weed brand. Then again, maybe this was the weed wizards of the world giving Tommy a birthday present.