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Marijuana & the Movies: A Metaphysical Interpretation of Cheech and Chong


Article written by Richard Cowan, former NORML National Director and a co-founder of I Heart CBD Oil along with ‘CBD Doctor’ Dr. Igor Bussel, MD, MS, MHA


Well, not really. I’m pretty sure that I saw all of the Cheech and Chong movies back in the day (1978 and early ‘80s), but I’m absolutely certain that I was stoned at the time. In fact, it was sort of ritual to get stoned and go to the movies. 

Of course, I have always been a fan of ‘old movies’, because they give us some insight into another world. The “Thin Man” or “Casa Blanca” for example. Cheech and Chong were also a continuation of movie comedy duos from Laurel and Hardy, to Abbott and Costello to Martin and Lewis. 

However, the period when C&C made their movies was at the height of the Drug War and Reefer Madness, and just as the “Just Say No” campaign began in 1982. The fact that the ultimate “stoner” movies were made at that time should tell us something about the futility of marijuana prohibition.

If the stoner humor seems quaint today, the “immigration” issue doesn’t seem as funny today. Ironically, Cheech Marin was born in Los Angeles, and his father was an officer with LAPD, but there was a lot of “ethnic humor” in their films.


SEE: It’s Time for Silicon Valley To Finish Its Job of Disrupting the Racist Drug War


In one of the scenes that I did remember from their first movie Up In Smoke (1978) they were deported to Mexico, by the INS, because Cheech’s relatives actually called the INS on themselves, so they could get a free ride to a wedding in Tijuana. Not likely to seem so funny today.

And then they got “discovered” again in 1996 by Bill Clinton’s Drug Czar, former U.S. Army General, Barry McCaffrey, who decided to call medical marijuana, “Cheech and Chong Medicine”, after California passed Prop 215, that stopped California narcs from arresting sick and dying people with a doctor’s recommendation. A real buzz kill for the Czar.

See: Fighting "Cheech & Chong" medicine. Did the White House drug office go too far in trying to stop the spread of medical marijuana initiatives?

Of course, they were not responsible for the Drug Czar’s using them to lie to the American people. Stoner humor, like ethnic humor generally, was “self-deprecating”, but it was then used against medical marijuana patients. Ironically, today Tommy Chong, born in Canada, is pitching CBD in the US and Cheech Marin, born in LA is pitching “cannabis” in Canada. 


General McCaffrey serves on the board of directors of CRC Health Group, a nationwide for-profit chain of addiction treatment centers and behavioral therapy programs for related disorders.





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