President Obama has commuted the sentences of 673 offenders and pardoned 70 more. Now Tommy Chong, of Cheech and Chong fame, hopes to be one of them.

Chong, who rose to prominence with Cheech Marin in the 1970s with their stoner buddy comedy routines, spent nine months in federal prison in the early 2000s for selling bongs over the internet. Last month, he started a White House petition encouraging the president to pardon him. To date, it’s received over 13,000 signatures, and needs more than 80,000 more by Sept. 25 to ensure a White House response.

Chong’s arrest and subsequent conviction were part of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s push code-named “Operation Pipe Dreams,” an effort to crack down on the distribution of drug paraphernalia.

Chong pleaded guilty in a deal to ensure that his wife and son, who were also involved in the business, wouldn’t face prosecution.

A lot has changed in the marijuana policy landscape since 2003. The drug is fully legal for recreational use in four states plus the District of Columbia. Five more states are considering whether to follow suit this November. Chong wants to get back into the bong business, but his conviction is making that difficult.

Chong is hoping Obama will acknowledge the changing legal and public opinion landscape around marijuana use by pardoning his criminal conviction, which would remove the civil barriers the conviction currently applies to the type of work he’s allowed to do.

Because of the way federal law is written, as long as bongs and glass pipes aren’t marketed for the express purpose of consuming illegal drugs, they are legal to possess and sell.

– From news service reports

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