Not many people can claim that they’re national weed icons, but when you’re known for your stoner stand-up routines, marijuana movies, and songs about smoking, you tend to go down in history for it. Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong, better known simply as Cheech and Chong, have been shaping the world of cannabis since they first started working together 50 years ago.
40 years ago, Cheech and Chong hit the big screens with their first feature-length movie, Up in Smoke. Despite its low budget, the movie brought in over $44 million dollars in the box office, and remains a cult classic to this day. While Cheech has joked that Up in Smoke is “totally responsible” for the interest in cannabis legalization today, he might actually have a point.
Long before that, though, the two were into weed all on their own. According to Chong, a jazz musician gave him a Lenny Bruce record and a joint when he was 17 – since that day, his life has never been the same. He quit school and hit the road to become a blues musician, then comedian, then movie star and more.
The story of how Cheech and Chong met could not be any more perfect, if you ask us. Chong was running a pair of strip clubs with his brother in Vancouver when he crossed paths with Cheech. The two were in the house band together, where they would warm up their audiences with stoner jokes. The audience loved them night after night, and from that point on, they were a dynamic duo of slapstick comedy.
Their Journey Continues
Cheech and Chong were kings of comedy for 15 years, before their breakup in the 1980s. At the end of it all, they had created five Grammy-nominated, best-selling albums and six popular (some arguably legendary) films.
In 2003, Chong was actually imprisoned for nine months when his plan to distribute handcrafted artisanal bongs was deemed a conspiracy for dealing drug paraphernalia by the government.
Chong was also diagnosed with cancer a few years back. Now cancer-free, he says that his cannabis consumption definitely played a role in his recovery.
Cheech & Chong Today
Cheech and Chong remain active in the realm of cannabis culture. Chong’s Choice, Tommy Chong’s line of high-quality medical weed and accessories, has been really taking off in recent years. Some people actually claim the 80-year-old still looks so young because of his lifetime record of pot smoking. His partner also has his own business, Cheech’s Private Stash, where he sells his own weed strains as well as pre-rolls.
The two of them will always be proponents of legal weed. “It can be sold and you get tax money that goes for our schools and fire departments,” Cheech has argued.
Cheech and Chong still make guest appearances together on talk shows and podcasts, always advocating for legal cannabis use. “The cannabis industry is the next huge frontier for business opportunity,” says Cheech. “Well-defined compliance regulations that benefit producers, distributors, and consumers are key.”