THE EQUALITY ISSUE
CHILLIN’ WITH CHEECH
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Cheech and Chong in their early days (1970).
From albums, you soon transitioned into films – starting with 1978’s cult classic “Up In Smoke.” You went on to make six movies together, including “Nice Dreams” which featured an appearance by LSD guru Timothy Leary. What was he like, and did you guys trip out with him? Yeah, sure! [laughs] Timmy was one of our best friends. He was like a psychedelic Irish pub rabble-rouser. He was incredibly intelligent and the most fun guy you could ever meet. He knew a lot about astronomy, and he used to come over to our house and point out all the stars and the constellations to us. We spent a lot of time together.
What’s your favorite Cheech and Chong film, and why? Probably ‘Up in Smoke’ because it encompassed a lot of the bits we were doing before and it was a big hit worldwide, but also because it was our first movie. Your first movie is really special, like your first love. As you know, the word “marijuana” originated in Mexico as a slang term for Cannabis. Do you know much about how the word originated and was used? It was used to denigrate [Cannabis] and give it this Mexican hue so that the police could use that as an excuse to stop Mexicans. It was also used to denigrate jazz musicians and black guys – like only them and Mexicans smoke this shit.
Well, yes … but that’s how Harry Anslinger and yellow journalists who had racist agendas used it against Mexicans. But it wasn’t a bad word among Mexicans, was it? No, no – it was a salve. They made salve out of marijuana. They boiled it down … just like you have CBD now. Mexicans were using it for all kinds of ailments – to rub on their skin and make it hurt less. So from the very beginning, it’s always been a medicine. There are some wokesters now who are claiming that the word “marijuana” itself is racist and that it shouldn’t be used anymore. As the world’s most famous and beloved Chicano pothead, how do you feel about the word marijuana? Do you think it’s negative and should be canceled? I don’t really subscribe to that argument. Marijuana, Cannabis … it doesn’t matter to me. The fact that it’s a Spanish word means more to me. So for me, it’s a totally positive word. Some states are trying to rectify the War on Drugs’ injustices against people of color via social equity programs. What’s your assessment of where things are in terms of social equity for Hispanics and Chicanos? I think it’s wide open right now. Anybody who cares to join, it seems, can … but it depends on what state you’re in and who controls that state. That’s the problem. So the big answer is to make it legal federally, and that wipes out a whole bunch of problems. We have to get it de-scheduled.