The Cheech and Chong Stereotype Must Die – Tommy Chong Responds to the New Cannabis Culture
The dichotomy of Tommy Chong has been written about on Cannabis.Net recently and it has started some active conversation on cannabis culture 2.0 and how the Cheech and Chong stereotype is portrayed in modern cannabis. On one hand, Tommy Chong is a revered figure in cannabis, on the Mt. Rushmore of Weed with the likes of Snoop, Willie Nelson, and Bob Marley. On the other hand, many modern-day cannabis warriors claim they are not the stereotypical “Cheech and Chong” stoner and that does not define them. The new cannabis culture is not a bunch of stoners laying around on couches and smoking weed all day.
We published an article along those lines called, “Does Cheech and Chong Have to Die for Federal Cannabis Legalization to Happen”. In other words, does the stoner Cheech and Chong stereotype that Tommy created with Cheech Marin must disappear for Chong’s Choice, Tommy’s cannabis business, to be able thrive and ship products across state lines and go national. The article created conversation and one conversation was with Steve DeAngelo about how hippy culture fits in with the new modern cannabis movement. The link to Steve’s emotional response is at the bottom of this article as well.
Is it bittersweet for Tommy Chong to be lauded and praised on one hand by people, yet, those same people will also say the Cheech and Chong stoner is not them and needs to go away? Tommy is a businessman and created an endearing character that the cannabis community loved for over 50 years, so how does it feel to be a legend, and now a pariah in a sense, all at the same time? I got to ask him this very question over the phone with Jimmy Young of Pro Cannabis Media. Here is his audio answer as well as the transcript of his response.
Tommy Chong: Hello.
Jimmy Young: Hello, Tommy Chong, and how are you, sir?
Tommy Chong: Are you in Boston?
Jimmy Young: We are in Boston, the greatest sports city in America. You probably know that.
Tommy Chong: Why?
Jimmy Young: Why? Because we always win.
Tommy Chong: Boston Bruins win?
Jimmy Young: Yes, they have won once in the last few years. Yes, they have.
Tommy Chong: Their two games, yeah.
Jimmy Young: All right. All right. Hey, let’s talk some weed, shall we, Tommy? I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. I know you’ve had a busy day with your shoot. First of all, I got to ask you about Chong’s Choice. Tell me a little bit about the company and what you’re doing now.
Tommy Chong: Well, Chong’s Choice, we started right when weed got legal and our biggest, or one of our biggest products is chocolate. It’s called Defonce Chocolate and it’s Chong’s Choice chocolate. It’s infused and, oh, all the ladies love it. My wife loves it because it helps her sleep at night.
Tommy Chong: Then we have flour and all the other goodies. We have trays and grinders and all sorts of stuff. Yeah, it just gives me something to sell when I’m talking to you guys.
Jimmy Young: Appreciate it.
Curt: Hey, Tommy. Nice to meet you. This is Curt with Cannabis.net. Big fan. I really appreciate your work and I’ve been waiting a long time to ask you a couple questions.
Tommy Chong: Sure.
Curt: First, we did a story on Cannabis.net that was, does Cheech and Chong need to die for Chong’s Choice to go national?
Curt: The gist of the story was is there any mixed emotions or is it bittersweet for you when on one hand the new cannabis culture puts you on a pedestal, the Mt. Rushmore of weed and appreciates what you did, but in the same conversation will say, “We’re not Cheech and Chong stoners. We’re not that kind of character. We go to work. We have jobs”? How do you feel inside when you get a compliment and a little bit of a backhand from the same culture now?
Tommy Chong: Well, compared to where we were it doesn’t matter. I don’t care what people think. In fact, you know what they found, is that negative publicity is more effective and that’s probably what happens. When you mention anybody, especially Cheech and Chong in the same breath as cannabis it’s a plus, no matter what you’re saying.
Tommy Chong: They used to say Up In Smoke promoted people to drive crazy, bad drivers, and all people heard was Up In Smoke and Cheech and Chong. That’s all they hear. So, no, I think any publicity is good publicity. It’s when they quit talking about you that you got to worry about it.
Curt: Do you think that the stereotype of that character, which is beloved and you created, has to go away for Chong’s Choice to be shipped over a state line, for you to be able to ship to say, Massachusetts?
Tommy Chong: Oh, even worse, in Canada I’m not allowed to even use my name. They got no celebrities whatsoever. You’re not supposed to. But again, that just creates more publicity and then people go, “What? Then I want something.” That was always Cheech and Chong’s secret weapon. The kids weren’t supposed to be listening to our records and you tell a kid not to do anything and that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
Tommy Chong: Same as the movies. As soon as our movie got rated PG, that’s when the movie really took off, because now kids are going to say, “Oh, it’s the forbidden fruit.” So again, the stereotypes always work as long as they talk about you.
Curt: [crosstalk 00:04:07] Jim and I got to ask the same question to Steve DeAngelo in Jamaica in reference to you in this article. He ripped me a new one for maybe three minutes straight defending you and the hippie culture. So, you were much nicer than Steve DeAngelo was to me.
Tommy Chong: Again, see what you’re doing? You’re dealing with the negatives and the negatives always are more interesting.
Tommy Chong: You watch the news and that’s all you hear is negative, negative stuff and then every once in a while you’ll hear something nice. But you can’t be nice for too long, people will turn you off, so you got to do it.
Tommy Chong: I understand when people want to defend it, because that means they take it personal. See, I don’t take anything personal ever. I went to jail for bongs and I wasn’t the least bit bitter. I was actually excited about going. It was a new adventure.
Tommy Chong: Everything I did was right. I went to jail for my son, basically. They told me if I didn’t plead guilty … I was innocent and I could have walked, but then the Feds said that if I don’t take their deal they’re going to go after my wife and son. This is the Feds and so just the lawyer fees alone would break me.
Tommy Chong: So I said, “No. I’ll go to jail,” and it turned out to be one of the best things I did all the way around. I met great people. I had a great time. It was exciting. I was really, really glad to get out. And that’s what you have to do.
Tommy Chong: See, the thing is about marijuana, we’re right. Cheech and I both used to say, I used to say when people attacked and talked about kids and all that, the old fashioned stuff, I’d say, I would tell them, “What if we’re right? What if we are right and you’re wrong?” Next thing you know, they found out that marijuana helps kids with epilepsy. It helps people with Alzheimer’s. It helps people with MS.
Tommy Chong: I mean, now MS apparently has acknowledged the fact, the researchers have acknowledged the fact that marijuana does work and they’re going full bore to get the MS people onboard with the cannabis. So, no matter what you say, you can talk bad about … Yeah, you can talk bad about Santa Claus, but he’s still Santa Claus.
Jimmy Young: That’s funny. Hey, Tommy, I know that you talked a little bit about your experience in prison, but you met somebody very special there that people may want to know who that is, and I believe you’re still friendly with Jordan Belfort, I guess. Right?
Tommy Chong: Oh, yeah. Well, Jordan and I shared a cubicle and I helped him write his book. The way I helped him was with negative … He showed me a page of what he had written and he was trying to be sophisticated and write like Tom Wolf. In fact, it was a copy of Tom Wolf and I busted him on it. Then he got kind of mad at me and then he went off, but I told him to write what you know.
Tommy Chong: Next thing I know he comes back. No, he didn’t even come back with anything. He just went off. Got mad, went and wrote and then the next time I saw him he pulled in front of my house, because we weren’t supposed to have any kind of connection because we were both on probation.
Tommy Chong: He yelled from his car. He goes, “Hey, I sold my book. I got a book called Wolf Of Wall Street. I sold it to Martin Scorsese. They’re going to a movie.” He’s yelling to me and I said, “Oh, great. Congratulations.” I’ve seen him since then and we’re still good friends. Then he wrote another book.
Tommy Chong: But I helped him and that’s what I did a lot in prison when I was there. I joined the Indian sweat lodge and so every Saturday we would do the sweats and very spiritual day. Yeah, I helped other people that were there and that’s really what I do now. I go around and just share the love, because that’s what marijuana was all about. It was all about love.
Jimmy Young: We’re finally seeing some movement in Washington, DC, too, Tommy. Can you believe that we’re actually perhaps even seeing the day when they’re talking about making it legalized in America? Is that going to happen? Are you going to see that?
Tommy Chong: Well, even idiots have good days.
Jimmy Young: Let’s leave it at that. I have a political comment I’m going to leave out. How’s that? Hey, Tommy Chong, I just want to thank you for taking some time out of your busy day to join us on our show. We talk live.
Jimmy Young: Obviously, back in the …I remember the ’60s and ’70s, so that dates me a little bit and I do remember going to the movie theater to watch your movie when I was a junior in college in the Boston area. [crosstalk 00:09:29] So, it’s kind of a thrill for you to join us on the phone. Appreciate it. Best of luck with Chong’s Choice. You want to give one more plug out for your business?
Tommy Chong: Yeah. If you want to get high and have fun, try Chong’s Choice.
Jimmy Young: That’s a great [inaudible 00:09:43].
Curt: All right. So hey, Tommy … Tommy, we always have to end every interview with the same question. If you’re on a deserted island and you can only take two strains with you for the rest of your life, what are they?
Tommy Chong: Two strains?
Tommy Chong: Well, I would take an indica and a sativa.
Curt: No! You cannot count that like that!
Jimmy Young: That’s great. That is great. It doesn’t matter to him, really and truly, Curt.
Tommy Chong: It doesn’t.
Jimmy Young: It’s just a plant, man. It’s a bunch of plants. That’s what my Rasta guys taught me [crosstalk 00:10:19].
Tommy Chong: Hey, a rose by any other name is still a rose.
Jimmy Young: That’s right.
Curt: That’s right.
Jimmy Young: You are terrific and we wish you the best of luck in the future and we will keep in touch, too.
Tommy Chong: Okay.
Jimmy Young: We talk live on Pro Cannabis Media and Cannabis.net. Thank you, Tommy Chong from California.
Tommy Chong: Okay. Take care, brother.
Jimmy Young: Take care.
Curt: Thank you, Tommy. Okay, fellas.