Does Tommy Chong have to bury his past in order to get cannabis legalized federally?
Do Hippies Still Fit in with Cannabis Culture? They are from the 70s, but do they belong in Cannabis 2020?
You have your Grateful Dead shirt on and your long hair, you have spent years smoking weed and telling the world, which wouldn’t not listen at the time, how great cannabis really is for the body and mind. You got written off as the guy who probably lives in a van down by the river and does magic mushrooms every weekend. You were cannabis culture, you symbolized and kept it alive for over 50 years if we go back to the 1960s, but is there a spot for you in cannabis culture 2.0, aka Legalized Cannabis 2020?
Do we need to kill off your stereotype in order to advance legalization?
This is a great question that hits at the heart of the evolving cannabis culture and legalization movement. Do we have to destroy our past in order to thrive in the future? Can the stoner culture of the 60s and 70s co-exist peacefully with the new “we are not lazy stoner, Cheech and Chong” cannabis users?
The history of cannabis culture in America starts with stoner culture. Yep, the hippies, the long-haired freaks, the Grateful Dead shows, and the pioneers in San Francisco in the 60s. The anti-war movement of the 70s lived and breathed marijuana with their long beards, little round glasses, and dancing and twirling at anti-war protests and concerts.
One question that I have always wanted to ask Tommy Chong if I ever got to interview him was the idea that the new cannabis culture bombards the public with messages about not being lazy, not being in a Cheech and Chong movie, how the new cannabis user is bright, hardworking, and a good contributing member of society. No dreadlocks, no scruffy beards, and no sitting on coaches all day eating pizza.
If you are Tommy Chong, who happens to also be a very astute businessman with his wife Shelby and son Paris, you must be torn. On one hand you created the stoner character that brought joy and laughs to millions of potheads around the world with Cheech Marin. On the other hand, is it almost a Greek tragedy where you must fall on the sword, destroy that character and that persona, in order to have Federal legalization advance. Does Tommy have to kill his movie character persona that he built up over a lifetime in order to see Chong’s Choice Selects shipped all over the country and cross a state line?
If you were Tommy and saw how beloved your characters were in the movies that thousands now claim do not represent the culture or the plant, how do you feel? You are on the Mt. Rushmore of Weed with Snoop, Willie Nelson, and Bob Marley, but that character stereotype is now being shunned for a preppie, hardworking, “normal” look of cannabis culture. You live on both sides of the fence, as a booming brand ambassador to Chong’s Choice cannabis products and full celebrity in the niche, yet you may see your life’s film work dismissed as no longer relevant or appropriate for the stuffy shirts in Congress in order for Federal cannabis legalization to happen.
In a way, all of us must forget the past in order to move forward in the future, but for Tommy Chong, the journey must be at least very ironic, if not painful. Your movie characters are beloved and symbolic, yet at the same time the new cannabis culture says we are not like that, that does not symbolize cannabis users in anyway. You are a king and you are shunned all in one breath. Your business interests lie in full-scale legalization, yet your past is the symbol of what we all now deny represents us.
Heavy stuff, good thing he can smoke a bowl of Chong’s choice and think about it.