On the second day of November, throngs of degenerate California voters will bombard the polling booths with the sickly smells of sweat, sage and amber resin. Their agenda is to decriminalize marijuana, a deadly and addictive substance whose users display an unhealthy tolerance for improvised music, a contemptible inability to untangle earphone cords and a fondness for nonsensical activities such as laughing at piggy banks and writing haiku about custard.
Three days after the polls, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong—marijuana’s most recognizable poster boys—will perform drug-oriented skits and crude tribal chants at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. If Proposition 19 passes, Cheech & Chong’s Nov. 5 event will be the comedy duo’s first post-prohibition show. How sadly fitting that it should take place in a touchy-feely California hippie haven whose residents unrepentantly embrace yoga, same-sex marriage, sushi, affirmative action, surfing, acupuncture and Zen alarm clocks. From there, it’s just a matter of time until the world devolves into one big Bonnaroo Festival, and the marijuana addicts bury our culture’s last remaining values under a mountain of tortilla chips and depravity.
But seriously … GT recently connected with Cheech & Chong, and hilarity ensued.
Good Times: Stoned people tend to laugh pretty easily. Isn’t doing comedy for pot smokers sort of like fishing with dynamite?
Cheech Marin: No, actually I think it’s the opposite: They tend to be kind of sedated.
Tommy Chong: [Laughs.] Our show is kind of geared toward the attention deficit crowd. We’re, like, entertaining epileptics: You’ve got to be careful that you don’t put the strobe light on at the wrong time.
GT: Up in Smoke was banned in South Africa for fear that it might influence the youth to smoke pot …
CM: [Jumping in.] Well, you would hope so!
GT: What do you think of the concerns that your comedy might be a danger to kids?
TC: I think it’s a danger to the propagandists. The thing about our movies: We told the truth. A lot of people have said that we glorified drugs—we didn’t glorify ’em at all! In fact, our characters de-glorified drugs, if anything.
GT: Yeah, you guys have caught some flack from people on the other side of the fence, too. Some pot smokers have compared you to Amos ’n’ Andy …
CM: Aw, gee! That’s really hurtful. [Laughs.] For the record, I loved Amos ’n’ Andy.
GT: The idea was that you portray pot smokers in a negative way.
CM: What, like stoned? [Laughs.] Yeah, we’re saying that all pot smokers are stoned! [Roars with laughter.] What the f***? [More laughter.] Yeah, [as if people] smoke pot, and then they run for president! Well, a lot of ’em do, actually, but … [Laughs.] They smoke pot, and then they figure out the national budget!
TC: The elitists don’t like us, but who do the elitists like? I think that’s their whole game: I like you, but I don’t like [this other person].
GT: Speaking of which, Tommy, I want to ask you about your bust in 2003. [On September 11, 2003, Chong was sentenced to nine months in federal prison after undercover government agents baited his son Paris into shipping bongs across state lines.] Why do you think people like John Ashcroft and Mary Beth Buchanan [who played prominent roles in the bust] hate the counterculture so much?
TC: They don’t. They don’t hate anybody. It’s all a political game, just like the civil rights law: There’s so many people against passing that. And the only thing that both sides of the aisle could agree on was: drugs are bad. No one wanted to be the first to say that drugs aren’t that bad. In fact, it was the other way around: People purposely tried to out-anti-drug the next guy.
GT: What are your thoughts on Prop 19?
CM: Well, I think it’s going to pass, and I think it’s a gateway proposition, you know? [Laughs.] Once we pass this one, the rest of the country’s going to follow, and I think marijuana will be legalized for any purpose throughout the country within three years.
TC: 19 is like a popularity poll, to me: It’s gonna show the world how many people think it should be legal, and it’s a message to the feds. You know how the feds are always giving us messages? We’re giving them one. It’s gonna be in conflict with the federal law, but that just shows you the conflict: The federal law is in conflict with our wants and desires.
GT: Some marijuana advocates, including Dennis Peron [the author of 1996’s Compassionate Use Act, which legalized marijuana for medical use in California], have spoken out against the proposition. Any thoughts on that?
CM: Well, all those guys that have medical marijuana agencies don’t want it to be legalized. It messes up their business! [Laughs.] And also the authorities don’t want it to be legalized, because that’s their profession, too. You know, the funny thing is, any kind of bill about prison reform gets voted against by prison guards, because that’s their gig.
TC: I understand [Peron’s concerns], because there are so many things in Prop. 19 that aren’t of the best interest. It’s sort of overreaching, and the medical [legality] has already been established. And I don’t think Prop. 19 can trump something that’s already been passed, without a court battle. But it’s like healthcare or ObamaCare: It’s not the best, but it’s better than nothing.
GT: Aside from the obvious, are you going to do anything special to celebrate if the proposition does pass?
CM: I think we might even smoke a joint. Hey, what the hell.
GT: I said aside from the obvious.
CM: Oh, we’re going to start a countermeasure called “Medical Beer.” We’re all for medical beer.
GT: What’s the most over-the-top thing a fan of yours has ever done?
CM: You know, it just happened last week. The other day, some guy comes up with this little plastic bag that had this gray, powdery substance in it. He said, “These are part of my wife’s ashes. Will you sign the bag?”
TC: He was in tears: “This is all I have left!” Cheech said, “Wow. This is definitely a first.” We’re like, [imitating himself saying goodbye to the fan:] “Hey, stay high!”
Cheech & Chong perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $60.50, $49.50 and $34. Seating is reserved. For tickets, call 420-5260 or go to santacruztickets.com.