Most people over the age of 16 have seen the iconic Cheech and Chong movies. Debuting in the latter half of 1978, Up In Smoke hasn’t only (somehow) withstood the test of time, but it launched the comedic stoner duo to the top of cannabis advocacy in the thick of the Reefer Madness-mentality era. Back in the ‘70s—hell any time before 2015, actually—cannabis advocates were looked at like psychopathic slime balls by society. And just because Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong were celebrities didn’t mean they were exempt from the stigma or harsh punishments. I mean, let’s be real: History shows that police and the government at-large revel in taking down stoners.
Yet nearly 40 years later the original stoner dudes have managed to transcend the complicated political landscape of cannabis and are more relevant than ever. Cheech has a library named after him in Riverside; they both have their own flower lines (sold in dispensaries around Orange County) and Chong is hosting his first Blazers Cup this weekend in San Bernardino. The Blazers Cup is a two-day celebration honoring both the medical and recreational aspects of the herb.
“This is the first annual Blazers Cup, as well as my very first entry into the world of legal weed events,” Chong told PotPlus in an interview. “I’m really, really enjoying it. I love anything where a bunch of people get together and talk and smoke and just celebrate the burning bush. That’s what cannabis is all about.”
Chong’s relationship with cannabis hasn’t exactly been breezy. In September 2003, he was sentenced to nine months in prison for shipping bongs to Pennsylvania. “I pleaded guilty because they wanted to go after my family,” he says. “It was definitely entrapment, but it was meant to be. I actually enjoyed my prison time and learned a lot. I never went to university or pursued higher education, so I kind of felt like I was in school when I went to jail. In fact, I treated it just like that.”
Chong explains that during his prison time, he took a GED course, which he failed. They wanted to pass him anyway because he’s “Tommy Chong, the cool stoner guy,” but Chong refused to take the easy way out. “Can you imagine having a jailhouse diploma that you cheated on?” Chong says, laughing. “I’d rather lose and learn then win and gloat, you know?”
During his prison stint, he became friends with a man who’d been in there for the majority of his life. Chong went out of his way to befriend this individual to learn the ways of prison entertainment and survival. The first thing Chong’s new friend taught him was how to play games, mostly chess, checkers and cards. The next thing his friend taught him was how to get in top physical shape. “Prison was basically a course on how to do time,” he says. “It’s kind of why I got to where I am today. In fact it’s definitely why I’m where I am now.”
Chong also battled prostate cancer and used cannabis as a form of treatment. He swears by the power of the plant. “For every disease there’s a treatment for it,” he says. “For the different types of cancer there’s a different strain [or a] specific cannabis oil that you should use.”
Part of the cannabis miracle, Chong explains, is how it helps in the recovery from cancer. He took chemo pills, did radiation treatment and then did the operation. Recovering from the operation is when he started doing CBD injections—while also injesting cannabis and smoking it regularly— which changed everything for him. “I truly believe cannabis kills cancer cells. I’ve even applied the cannabis oil on a couple of suspicious sores on my body and they totally healed up—like completely disappeared.”
The Blazers Cup is happening this Saturday and Sunday (you can purchase tickets here!) at the NOS Events Center. You can expect musical performances by the Game, B-Real of Cypress Hill, Riff Raff and Berner. There will be a competition highlighting the best flower, edibles, concentrates, topicals, glass, etc. There’ll also be an area that allows attendees to celebrate their smoky rights under Prop. 215. But in order to gain access to that area you must have a doctor’s recommendation with you.
“This is my retirement plan,” Chong says gleefully. “I want to eventually do Blazers Cups everywhere cannabis is legal in the world. I want these gatherings to bring millions of people together to enjoy the burning bush.”