Cheech, On the Green Revolution

The legendary bongmaster, Cheech Marin, dispenses wisdom on the best strains and more.
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Cheech Marin

Cheech Marin

Cheech Marin, one-half of the stoner comedy duo Cheech & Chong, made a shocking revelation to late-night host Stephen Colbert last year. Marijuana, he and his longtime partner declared, was now officially boring. “Pot used to be rebellious,” he told the befuddled host. “The last time I bought weed, it was from a store in a strip mall.” He missed the good old days, he told Colbert, when he bought it behind the store in the strip mall."

But that was Marin in character, as the lovable stoner from such comedy classics as 1978’s Up In Smoke. In reality, Marin isn’t exactly yawning over the future of legal cannabis. More like pouncing on an opportunity. In 2018, he launched Cheech’s Stash, a partnership with Nevada-based Redwood Cultivation that features four strains personally selected by the man himself. Would Cheech Marin circa 1979 ever have believed what Cheech Marin circa 2019 was up to?     

We called Marin at his home base in Malibu, California, to talk about what a long, strange trip it's been from pot funny-man to weed entrepreneur.     

What would Cheech and Chong make of legalization?

I think they’d be looking for a job in a dispensary right now.     

You don’t think they’d open their own legal weed business? Or start producing their own strains? They were always ahead of the curve.     

Yeah, but they were also lazy. I don’t think they’d have the energy for that. I’m sure they’d recommend a lot of stuff they tested. Maybe they’d be on an advisory board at some big marijuana company. Or they’d be doctors.     

They’d have the attention span to get a medical license?

No, but they’d figure something out. That would be their dream, to write their own prescriptions. 

You’re 72, which means the fictional Cheech would also be in his 70s. Would he and Tommy be more interested in the medicinal benefits?    

Oh yeah. I don’t think they’d just be about getting stoned anymore. That’s a young man’s game. They’d use it to help with their chronic pain or glaucoma.     

So if you and Tommy made another movie, it’d probably have a title like Cheech & Chong Use Medical Marijuana To Treat Their Crohn’s Disease?

I guess so. [Laughs.] Which is why we’re not making stoner comedies anymore.

Are you surprised at how far we’ve come? Did you ever expect to see cannabis legalized in your lifetime?
I totally expected it.

You did?

I knew we’d get here. It never seemed like a revolutionary idea to me. That’s part of what Tommy and I tried to do with our movies, take the stigma out. Weed isn’t this big scary public menace. It’s not the boogeyman. It’s just something that makes people act silly.

How have your tastes in cannabis changed? In your 20s or 30s, you were probably all about getting to that silly place. Is your palate more refined?

Absolutely. It’s like when you get more sophisticated about wine appreciation. It’s not just about chugging as much as you can. I’m more fascinated by the flavors of all of these different strains, and the entourage effect. All the different aspects that come together when you smoke good weed. It’s not just the THC, it’s all the compounds working together.

When selecting strains for Cheech’s Stash, did you try everything personally? 

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Everything.

There are worse jobs in the world.

That’s what my wife says. She says to me, “Oh, are you going to your job again?” [Laughs.]

Cheech the character was once willing to smoke weed that tasted of Labrador.

[Laughs.] That’s right! Ostensibly because it had been smuggled inside the rear end of a Labrador Retriever. A Labrador butt is what we called a dispensary back then.

Obviously the quality is a little better today. Would Cheech Marin of Up In Smoke be more discerning of the notes he tasted in cannabis in 2019?

Oh yeah. Much more discerning. I think he’d go more for Poodle.