Cheech Marin Hits Phoenix: Still Smoking, Still Joking

Richard Anthony “Cheech” Marin, best known as Cheech in the legendary comedic duo, Cheech and Chong, and America’s most public “stoner,” says he still smokes as much as always and doesn’t differentiate between medicinal and recreational.

“I don’t do it medicinally,” said Marin, “I don’t think it makes a difference whether it is recreational or medical use. Alleviation of stress is medicinal.”

Marin was at Encanto Green Cross Dispensary in Phoenix this past weekend to meet with fans and promote a new product line of Christmas-themed “dusted nugs,” which bear his name. 

Marin and his comedic partner, Tommy Chong, first met in the late ‘60s in Vancouver, British Columbia, and quickly began collaborating on an improvisational comedy act that they translated into their first comedy record in 1972.

Marin acknowledged his albums helped make marijuana mainstream.

“Well I hope so,” he said. “I mean, yeah, it should be in the mainstream. We just recognize it now. We’ve been contributing to that since we began. It is mainstream, just like Latinos.”

The duo followed up their successful records with their film debut in Up in Smoke in 1978, which, along with its sequels, arguably are the predecessors to the “stoner comedies” genre. 

Marin likes the new generation of stoner films, but says you can’t surpass the originals.

“I like a little bit of all of them,” he said. “Of course they’ll never replace Cheech and Chong. I like all the stuff that [Judd] Apatow and Seth Rogan do. I like all those guys. I give them my blessing.”

Marin said, although opponents of legalization sometimes liken weed to the end of the world, it’s far less of a threat than alcohol.

“I’d much rather substitute marijuana for alcohol.," he says. "It’s always better for you.”

Marin said marijuana has gotten stronger since he began smoking.

“And, it’s much less dangerous now. Now you don’t have seeds in there popping that will hit you in the eye.”

He said he still prefers a joint to vapor, edibles, or any other form of THC ingestion.

“I’m really old-school man. I mean, like, a pipe is a new deal to me. I usually just smoke a joint. I like the taste of it.”

Marin says his relationship with marijuana is as strong as it was when he began his career.

“I do the same amount of marijuana now that I’ve always done, which is not a lot,” he said. “In the early days, we were working all the time. We never did it while we were working. When you put in a 12- or 14-hour work day, and you get stoned every day, you’re not going to put out the best product.

“Our method of creation involved improvisation so you have to be really aware of what’s going on.”

He paused to clarify, and grinned.

“I mean, maybe we smoked a little.”

When he’s not cracking jokes, Marin said he’s busy enjoying life.

“I like to play music, hang with my family, collect art, pontificate,” he joked.

Chicano art has become a passion.

“I was always interested in art all my life,” he said. “I discovered these Chicano artists in about the mid-‘80s. I thought they were the best painters out there, so I started collecting. One thing led to another, and I saw there was this opportunity to publicize this art, because they hadn’t been getting a lot of shelf space. It just became an obsession, and also it does a lot of good.

“My mantra has been, that you can’t love or hate Chicano art unless you see it. My goal has been to show it to everybody, and that’s what I’m involved in doing now.”

And Marin said he can’t stay off the golf course since co-staring in the golf comedy Tin Cup with Kevin Costner.

“I mean, I had golfed a couple of times before, but that’s when I got the mania for it,” he said. “My son and I started at the same time. He was 9, I think. It was something we could do together. We just golfed the other day.”

Marin said he and Chong have a special bond when working together. 
Years ago, after already pursuing a grueling tour schedule, the duo’s producer came to them requesting a Christmas album. Without much time to prepare, they hit the studio.

“We started with just one thought, ‘There’s a musician who doesn’t know who Santa Claus is,’ ” he said. “We did it in two or three passes, and we had it. When we were working together, it was like telepathy. We didn’t have to ask each other anything; we could see where the other was going. You’d think, ‘I’m going to jump off at this cliff right here, and I know he’s going to be down there.”

When asked who’s funnier, Marin didn’t hesitate.

“Oh me, I’m way funnier,” he said, chuckling. “I mean, I don’t think that’s even a question. The thing is that we work great together. We’re two unique people who came together, and our various senses of humor and our timing meshed.”

Given the option to share a joint with anybody, Marin said his always would be Chong.

“We have fun when we get stoned together. Tommy is a funny guy in a specific, way-out, off-the-wall kind of way,” Marin said. “That’s why he’s funny to me. Nobody else would think about that kind of stuff. Then sometimes I’ll say, ‘Let’s put that in the movie.’”
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