Cheech Marin’s Advice To Stars Getting Into The Celebrity Cannabis Business: ‘Good Luck’ (Exclusive)

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Image Credit: Clayton Bueno

Cheech Marin doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to celebs starting a branded cannabis line as decriminalization efforts continue to roll through the United States. In fact, he puts it bluntly: “It’s a tough business – good luck!” he says with a laugh when talking with HollywoodLife. The comedy and counterculture icon speaks from experience, having started the Cheech & Chong Cannabis Co. with a team that includes his longtime creative and comedy partner, Tommy Chong. The company handles brands like Cheech’s Stash, Tommy Chong’s CBD, and more – products that will be enjoyed on the upcoming cannabis holiday, 4/20.

Cheech’s laugh isn’t mocking or out of malice. It comes from having celebrated seventy-five “4/20s” in this lifetime (he turns 77 in July). Cheech has witnessed the shifting attitudes towards cannabis and how the market reflects that. “It’s a tough business actually to make money in it because there’s so much competition,” Cheech tells HL. “And the price of weed went down from a thousand dollars a pound to a hundred dollars a pound.”

Cheech & Chong (Clayton Bueno)

“Everybody figured it was going to keep going through the roof. But everybody’s growing it. My grandmother grows weed,” he says with another laugh. “So that registers on the market.” However, that hasn’t stopped some cannabis entrepreneurs from diving into the market, and some celebrities – Berner, Seth Rogen, Melissa Etheridge, Lil Kim, and Jay-Z, to name a few — from launching their lines of THC, CBD, and lifestyle products.

Cheech suggests that anyone getting into the industry should find a way to stand out from the rest. “You have to figure out what is your path,” he says. “What is your niche inside this [industry]? And how can you sustain it?”

He also notes that anyone diving into the market should be ready for changes. The cannabis world will be “in limbo until it’s legal federally,” says Cheech. “And then the whole thing will change again. And when it’s legal federally, you don’t have all the restrictive laws you have now, where you have to grow and sell in the same state.”

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Heading into the 2023 edition of the stoner’s holiday, cannabis is now legal, in some form, throughout 46 states and territories, according to Leafwell, a hub of data scientists, cannabis specialists, and patient advocates. A 2022 Gallup poll listed that 69% of polled Americans think that cannabis should be legal, per CNN, and in 2022, President Joe Biden pardoned thousands of individuals convicted of “simple marijuana possession.”

“Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” the president said in a statement, per CNBC. He also announced he instructed Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to begin reviewing cannabis’s classification under federal drug laws. Currently, cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 substance, the same as heroin and more serious than fentanyl.

Only ten U.S. states and territories have no form of legal cannabis program (medicinal or recreational): Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and American Samoa.

“And Washington DC – it’s legal in Washington DC, but there are no dispensaries,” remarks Cheech. “So all that sh*t will change. And then, when it does, and then it’ll make sense for a big conglomerate to buy us. And then I can leave it to my kids and go off to my just reward.”

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Until that reward comes, Cheech (b. Richard Marin) will still stay smokin’. After all, for over fifty years, Chong maintained a presence in cannabis culture alongside Chong (the duo’s self-titled debut comedy album crossed the half-century mark in 2021, and their first movie, Up In Smoke, turns 45 this year.)

Their official TikTok account has over 7.2 million followers and over 100 million likes. In March, the duo launched Bowlmates, their online cannabis community. That same month, they released a joint statement to Entertainment Weekly, announcing they were working on a biopic about their origins and influence on comedy and culture.

Cheech & Chong never went away, even when the duo split up in the 1980s. Cheech maintained his momentum as a solo performer, appearing in the underrated Born In East L.A. (his directorial debut) and in films like Ghostbusters II, Troop Beverly Hills, Tin Cup, From Dust Till Dawn, and the Spy Kids franchise. He also played on the other side of the law, joining the hit TV series Nash Bridges as Inspector Joe Dominguez.

Recently, Cheech appeared alongside Jennifer Lopez in Shotgun Wedding and Champions with Woody Harrelson. Cheech also launched The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry, the first museum dedicated to Chicano art and culture. “You know, I can’t believe that it happened. I’ve been thinking of all the factors that came together for the museum to happen,” he tells HL. “They come to you with this proposition, and the community supports it, and there is a collection. I don’t know of any other museum that could have taken the whole collection and featured it as the mainstay of the museum. No other museum I know could accept, even if they wanted to, 550 paintings all at once.”

Cheech is also spearheading (sort of) the movement to have Cheech & Chong inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “I am still pissed off that we’re not there,” he says when it’s brought up a year after he first broached the subject with HollywoodLife. “It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why we were not even invited. We were not ever invited to be on Saturday Night Live, either. [But] if there are comedians that should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it’s definitely Cheech and Chong.”

The argument is sound. Three of the duo’s albums — Big Bambú, Los Cochinos, and Cheech & Chong’s Wedding Album – reached the Top 5 on the Billboard 200. Their song “Basketball Jones” reached no. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, while their 1974 single, “Earache In My Eye,” was a Top Ten hit. The latter has since been covered by such groups as Rollins Band, Soundgarden, Government Panic, Rush, and Korn.

 “When you have other rock and roll stars covering your music, and you’re the comedian, what does that say about being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?” he asks. “I’ve given up being upset about it. It’ll happen, eventually. I just hope we’re still alive.”

Cheech will continue to be a rockstar, even if he and Tommy Chong aren’t inducted into the Rock Hall – specifically, after a sesh. “I love to play more than anything after I’ve been smoking,” he tells HL. “I brought all my guitars in from the garage. I usually play acoustic guitar. I have electric guitars but no drummer, so I don’t need to be electric.” Cheech’s collection includes several six-string, “three 12-strings,” and a surprising amount of ukuleles. “I’ve been [them] a lot lately.”

“If you’re a musician, and that’s all you do, man, you can get good at it,” he says of learning new instruments and tunes. “But I generally don’t practice after I’ve smoked. If I practice, I’m practicing. I’ll do scales, do this and that. And it’s when I’ve kind of worked through a song, and I actually know it, then I can smoke and then sing it, and it’s another song.”

“You got to get to learning the song until you’re not even thinking about making the chord changes; they just come automatically. That takes a lot of times playing that song,” he says. “I was always a singer all my life, since I was like five years old. And a guitar player– I think [I was] 11 or 12 when I started playing guitar. But always the singer. So I can practice that all the time without even having to have an instrument, just having to have a tolerant wife.”

“But she’s a musician as well,” Cheech says of his wife, classically trained pianist Natasha Marin, “so it works out well.”

(Clayton Bueno)

The Cheech & Chong discography should be on everyone’s playlist this 4/20. And for those who can score some of Cheech’s Private Stash, his branded line of cannabis, he has some suggestions on what to throw on next. For those enjoying the “Was Sappening” sativa, he recommends “some up-tempo music.”

“Anything that’s up-tempo that you like because people like different kinds of music. But find some up-tempo one, and I think you’ll be happy,” he says. “Listen to Los Lobos. They’re great. They’ve always been great. I’ve just been listening to a little bit of them in the last couple of days, old albums that I wanted to. And some albums I never knew existed. They were just such great players, singers, and songwriters. You recognize their music immediately. So Los Lobos, listen to Los Lobos.”

For those who score some of the “So Too Much” indica? “Something slower,” he tells HL. “I’ve been listening to a lot of, you won’t believe this, but Oud music. It’s a Middle Eastern instrument, like a guitar or mandolin. And I’ve been listening to Oud players lately. But this is one guy, Sandy Bull. If you’re a Westerner, he’s your introduction to Oud Music because he’s like the world’s only Oud jazz player.”

And for the “Fuchi Que Pesta” hybrid strain? “Listen to anything. Listen to Grateful Dead because that’s everything. You know?” he says while laughing. “They don’t know what song, they don’t know what key. That was my only comment about the Grateful Dead, just find a key and stay there.’ So, listen to the Grateful Dead.”

No matter what you listen to, consume responsibly and legally. Consult NORML for information about laws in your state, and make yourself aware of potential health risks. Do not indulge if you are under 21, and follow these guides on how to be responsible this 4/20.

Editor’s Note: earlier versions of the piece erroneously referenced The Cheech as the official documentary launching The Cheech museum. 

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