During the 1970s and early 1980s, the comedy team of Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong brought a unique brand of reefer madness to audiences through a series of albums and films that presented them as bumbling stoners wreaking havoc in an uptight world.
Today, the duo is going one toke over the line into a very different direction by linking their Cheech and Chong brand into a new line of marijuana retail dispensaries.
In an interview with the Business Journal, Tommy Chong laughed at the question at whether the pair ever dreamed back in the day that their pot-smoking antics would evolve into a multistate business.
“No, no,” he exclaimed. “It was amazing.”
The new Cheech and Chong dispensaries are being created by Five Point Holdings Inc., a diversified cannabis branding company. Paris Chong, the comic’s son and business manager, is a director with the company, which recently announced a licensing agreement to put the Cheech and Chong brand in a new chain of dispensaries opening in states where recreational marijuana is legal.
While Five Point Holdings has not set an opening date on its dispensaries, the initial efforts will focus on Arizona, California, Illinois, Nevada and Washington.
Chong acknowledged that he was initially wary of attaching the Cheech and Chong brand to this line of business due to earlier inquiries from people who turned out to be untrustworthy.
“It was turned into a scam,” he recalled. “They were more into trying to raise money and not really following through with a decent plan.”
Currently, 11 states have legalized both recreational and medicinal marijuana; New York and Connecticut only allow for medicinal marijuana sales, and efforts to legalize marijuana have stalled in their respective legislatures. Chong is optimistic that a growing public sentiment favoring full legalization will enable this new venture to grow.
“We’re working on the theory that the laws are going to change as we go,” he said. “We’re going to open up in the tried-and-trued areas and then go from there.”
Still, Chong expressed dismay that his new endeavor will not be immediately available on the East Coast, adding he was “a little surprised New York is taking so long” in enacting full legalization of marijuana.
He also complained that marijuana is still viewed as an illegal substance by the federal government, which he attributed to a “a big government bullshit plan” to criminalize anything related to marijuana. But, he pointed out, that mindset is slowly changing.
“Now, it looks like we’re going to go back to the hemp products because hemp is slowly being recognized as a climate saver,” he said. “And one of the positive things of this coronavirus is that the marijuana industry was considered essential. I think that shows the value anyway in the health department.”
As for the future of legalized cannabis, Chong observed the Trump administration is showing no signs of reversing its opposition to the concept and he referred to Joe Biden as “Trump light,” noting how “it was his law that put me in jail” in 2003 after he pleaded guilty to the sale of bongs. However, he believes that even the most virulent anti-marijuana advocates have been known to change their minds.
“There’s a lot of DEA people that are in the marijuana business,” he said. “Even the former Speaker of the House John Boehner went from anti to pro in a heartbeat.”
Boehner is on the board of Acreage Holdings, a publicly traded cannabis investment company.
Since the peak of their popularity, Cheech and Chong have mostly pursued separate careers, with occasional appearances together over the years on television. Chong stated that the team is planning to reunite for a new feature-length film that is now in the development stage, and the duo will make (no pun intended) joint appearances at the openings of the dispensaries.
“That’s one of our big selling points,” he stated. “We’re going to be at the dispensary to use the Cheech and Chong brand to the max. “You know, in every movie we made as Cheech and Chong, except for ‘The Corsican Brothers,’ it was a marijuana-based movie.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.