Bongs Away

Buddha Gonzalez, the admittedly "funky and chunky" frontman for local band Buddha Gonzalez and the Headless Chiwawas, has mad love for three things: music, weed, and his friend Tommy Chong (Cheech and Chong, That '70s Show). When he heard about the movement to free counterculture icon Chong from the federal prison where he is serving a nine-month sentence for selling bongs over the Internet, Gonzalez cranked his AOL buddy list into action and put together a series of benefit concerts from Miami to Washington, D.C. Among Buddha's many renowned buddies: rock and roll hall of famers George Clinton and Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey from P-Funk, Buckethead from Guns N' Roses, and El General.

While most potheads blazed away their days, the rotund Gonzalez wrote e-mails, coordinated petitions, and scouted concert locations such as Tobacco Road. That's where the first Free Tommy Chong benefit concert will take place this Friday, featuring Buddha himself, performing with "Bigfoot" Brailey and sharing the stage with La Lacra De La Chacra, Jorge Correa, Orlando's Adamas and Runninblind, infamous dirty rapper Blowfly, and Playboy Playmate Alejandra Gutierrez.

Gonzalez, the self-proclaimed "Son of Funk," put all this together in an effort to garner support for Chong, the lovable hippie he first met while making an appearance on radio station Zeta (WZTA-FM 94.9). Through the organization process, Gonzalez discovered he was not alone. A large grassroots network had emerged following the federal government's implementation of Operation Pipe Dreams and Operation Headhunter, in which more than 50 owners of head shops and Internet drug paraphernalia peddlers across the country were raided, arrested, and had their merchandise confiscated. Gonzalez quickly realized the potential for some publicity and the chance to make right what he considers a travesty of justice.

"A couple of years ago, I put together this festival in the Redlands," says Gonzalez. "While it was going on, one of my best friends got shot and killed 'cause they thought he was 'holding' and they wanted to rob him. These people killed someone and they're already free. Meanwhile Tommy Chong sits in jail."

Buddha has a point. Acting DEA Administrator John B. Brown has said, "People selling drug paraphernalia are in essence no different than drug dealers. They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide." Well, firearms are available on the Internet too. Just click on, and aside from machine guns, ammo, and scopes, one can easily and legally find silencers for sale.

A few weeks ago Shelby Chong, Tommy Chong's wife, was scheduled to talk on Internet radio about what she thought of her husband being likened to a drug trafficker à la Escobar or Magluta. It was going to be a worldwide platform from which to debate the merits of marijuana laws. Shelby, sadly, never showed. The expected one-hour interview instead turned into a one-minute commercial for Buddha Gonzalez's concerts, not that he minded one bit. Every second is precious in his effort to free his hapless hippie friend.

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Kris Conesa