April is a busy month for Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong. The comedy duo — best known as Cheech & Chong — is promoting Cheech & Chong’s Cannabis Company, a consortium of weed-related businesses that includes marijuana distribution, dispensaries and a take-out service with a contest that allows three people in the Los Angeles area to have the legendary stoners appear at their homes on April 20, aka 4/20.
Entering the contest is easy: Anyone who makes a purchase between today and April 15 from Cheech & Chong’s Takeout is automatically entered to win. For those who don’t smoke weed, the prize is like God knocking on your door on a Sunday morning and asking to go to church with you.
Cheech and Chong have individual weed businesses (Tommy Chong’s Cannabis and Cheech’s Stash), but Cheech & Chong’s Cannabis Company marks the first time the twosome has gone into the marijuana business together. We decided to speak to them about their latest venture and asked that the interview be conducted from inside of the Love Machine, to which they obliged.
Los Angeles contributor Ryan Ritchie: Does anybody interview you and not tell you how excited they are to interview both of you?
Cheech Marin: No. Pretty much they are excited whenever they see us. I think they can’t believe we’re still alive.
Tommy Chong: They refer to me kind of like as a deity, like I’m a Holy person or something, because every time they look at me, they go, “Oh, my God.”
RR: To some of us, both of you are deities. What does it mean to have a stranger say they’re excited to interview you?
TC: It means you get a good seat in a restaurant. It can be crowded, and people lined up, but as soon as they see us, “Right this way, Mr. Marin, Mr. Chong, whichever one you are.”
CM: One of the advantages is you know good Mexican food from bad Mexican food. Some people don’t know that. Good Mexican food tastes like it just got made. Bad Mexican food got made sometime last century.
RR: Do you get confused for each other?
TC: Yeah. All the time. When I got out of jail, I was sleeping with my wife. She woke me up and she says, “Cheech, Cheech, get up. Chong will be home.” I was halfway down the block before I realized that, hey, I’m Chong.
RR: When you see stoner comedies — The Big Lebowski, Harold and Kumar, basically every Seth Rogen film — are you excited or do you think you should be getting a piece of that?
CM: It’s a brotherhood. We’re all in this together, like Pineapple Express, The Big Lebowski and Friday.
RR: Are you happy with where cannabis is right now?
CM: I’d be happier if it was federally legal.
TC: That’s coming. As soon as they decide if we’re going to stay a democracy or be a dictatorship. That’s still up in there whether we’re going to have Ted Cruz as our next president, you know? Anybody can be president. We proved that the dumbest idiot on Earth can be president and here we are.
RR: When you saw the medical marijuana push, did you know this was the start of decriminalization?
CM: Yeah, absolutely, because what are they going to do? “Oh, I’m only smoking this weed medically. It has nothing to do with getting high. You get high, but that’s just a side effect.”
TC: Marijuana has always been a racist law. It’s the excuse the cops had to stop and search Black people and Brown people and take their money. The way the laws are constructed to say, “Yeah, you can sell all the weed you want, but when we catch you, we’re going to take all your money, take everything you own, because we got it written in the law.” Now they found out medically, it really is a medicine, and because of the little baby that had epilepsy and that doctor Sanjay Gupta show on CNN, there’s no argument against the medical use of it. Now it’s a matter of how to deal with the so-called recreation end of it. Personally, I think all marijuana should be considered medical because it is a medicine. The ideal thing would be to leave it medical, do it so it’s schedule two, not a schedule one, take it off schedule one, which gives the cops every reason in the world to do no-knock warrants and stuff like that and eliminate the racist part of the law.
RR: Two the things I noticed about your work is that the cops were the bad guys. The second is that Tommy, the characters you’re playing, the hippie, if you will, is often the smarter of the two. He’s the one playing the pranks and I wonder before that if the hippie was typecast as the bad guy or the stupid guy.
CM: It was more like they thought they were misled and stupid.
TC: They’ve been used down the centuries. They’re the scapegoats. They’re the peace lovers. The meek that the Bible talk about shall inherit the Earth. Yeah, that’s the hippies. They’re the meek. I’ve always maintained that pot is going to going to save the world and I still maintain it because it inspires the artistic nature of man, and art is one thing that has survived.
RR: Let’s talk about your company and start with what I think is the most important thing, which is that your take-out has $25 eighths, which is a good deal.
TC: Takeout, by the way, is probably one of the oldest professions in the world where the guy with the drum or telephone, depending on how they communicate, “I need a baggie over here quick,” and it’s delivered.
RR: What took so long for Cheech & Chong to have a weed company together?
CM: We had ran into somebody that wanted to do it and was willing to fund it and started because we’re buying Cheech & Chong dispensaries that will have Cheech brand, Chong brand and Cheech & Chong brand.
TC: I put out a line where I’m sativa and Cheech is indica. Indica is a smaller plant, but more powerful, and sativa is like sort of loosey goosey. Tall but more fun.
CM: More hippie.
RR: Did you know the difference between indica and sativa in the ‘60s and ‘70s? Was that a thing or did you get whatever your dealer had?
CM: It’s called “weed.” Smoke weed. What kind of weed? Green.
TC: There’s a saying back then — beggars can’t be choosers. If you found something that was more than just the stems and the leaves, you scored. If you got a little bit of bud in there, it was like, “We did it!”
RR: Does having your own brand mean you can’t smoke other weed?
CM: No. Hey, we’re open, equal opportunity weed vendors. We’ll smoke anything.
TC: We did drugs when it was called “try this.” Then what we would do, we would try it and then we would say, “What’s supposed to happen?” after we tried it.
CM: We don’t know. We’re watching you.
RR: What’s your best strain? What do you go to that you’re selling right now?
CM: The strains change so much every week. There’s hundreds of new strains coming into the market every day, so I smoke whatever my son tells me is good. He’s a taster for my brand.
TC: When they asked me, I always tell people that I’m still looking for my favorite strain.
RR: What’s the longest either of you gone without smoking?
TC: When I got busted, I had to quit smoking immediately because of what they call “pretrial probation.” When I got out, I was on probation for a year and I did nine months, but it took a year to get to court, so about three years is the longest I’ve been without it.
CM: Same for me. I go through periods where I don’t smoke at all — just meditate.
RR: Tell me about the contest you’re hosting.
TC: We keep track of who orders Cheech & Chong’s Takeout and if you hit the right thing, you’re going to get Cheech and Chong at your door.
RR: I’m sure somebody’s going to be excited to win that.
CM: We hope so. Maybe they think we’re the cops.
RR: Both of you, I imagine, are on everybody’s stoner wish list. Who do each of you want to get high with?
TC: The only Beatle that I never got high in front of, not just with, but in front of, was Paul McCartney. Paul knows he’s on my bucket list and apparently he’s willing whenever we hook up. We’re going to get high together.
CM: We should do that together because he’s the only Beatle that I haven’t smoked with, too.
RR: Cheech, you have a museum opening in Riverside next month. Can you tell me a bit about that?
CM: I have this big collection of Chicano art that I’ve been working on for about 40 years and touring it. One thing led to another and the city of Riverside offered me a museum to house the collection. They came to me and offered me this beautiful mid-century building in Riverside.
RR: I have to imagine in the ‘70s, no museum was coming to Cheech & Chong and saying, “We want your stuff in here.” I know this art isn’t yours, but you own it. Have we done a 180 on that culturally?
CM: No. We always said that we were middle of the road dopers. They just didn’t know what middle of the road was. We’re normal guys.
RR: I think that’s one thing that makes your films and records so good. Your comedy is accessible to everybody. It is total stoner humor, but it’s not.
CM: Anybody can laugh at “Earache My Eye,” “Basketball Jones,” “Black Lassie” or any of our musical hits. Actually, only about five percent of what we did had to do with weed.