Cheech and Chong do San Francisco

By Ed Murrieta

They’re more associated with Los Angeles, where their movies and lives are set, but the godfathers of cannabis culture are opening their first pot store in San Francisco — with pandemic-era touches that’ll have Cheech and Chong serving customers virtually.

If all goes according to pipe dreams, Cheech and Chong’s Dispensoria, featuring cultivation rooms, retail space and a consumption lounge, will be ready to open in early 2021.

“San Francisco really is the genesis,” Tommy Chong told me “San Francisco had the first dispensaries way, way, way back. We’re just following the trends.”

Customers likely won’t initially smoke in Cheech and Chong’s lounge due to closures prompted by COVID-19, but a video wall will allow customers to virtually interact with the Grammy-winning comedy duo.

“Barring something wild, Cheech and Chong will ring up the first budtender sales,” said Danny Keith, CEO of the group behind Cheech and Chong’s Dispensoria.

Keith said Cheech and Chong’s Dispensoria will feature Cheech Marin’s and Tommy Chong’s existing individual cannabis brands, plus other brands. But Cheech and Chong’s brand of cannabis won’t exist until the longtime buds grow their own.

Keith said Cheech and Chong’s Dispensoria’s aesthetic honors Cheech and Chong’s 50-years-and-running appeal among Baby Boomers, GenX, Millennials and GenZ.

“We’re really going to focus on Cheech and Chong of lore, which is their 1970s/1980s caricatures, vs. trying to make it 2020 with what Cheech and Chong are today: mature adults,” Keith said.

Keith said Cheech and Chong’s Dispensoria will play to experiences and emotions.

“It’s going to be like Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, where you have emotional reactions to things like wax characters of Tommy and Cheech, or to-scale models of Cheech and Chong’s weed van or ice cream truck,” Keith said.

Keith said Cheech and Chong are seeking a location in the Mission District, SOMA, Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf. Keith said a Southern California store is being pursued.

“Dispensoria” hints at Cheech and Chong’s multicultural roots, evoking taqueria and pizzeria.

“It’s honoring our Mexican soul brothers,” Chong said, noting that marijuana is a Spanish a word made up by white men to demonize non-white cannabis users.

The Dispensoria will also pay props to Cheech and Chong’s personal passions. For Chong, who beat cancer with cannabis and did prison time for marketing bongs, that includes medicinal and social-justice sides of cannabis. For Chicano art collector Marin, that means Chicano art.

The Dispensoria will be a return to the city for both Cheech and Chong. Marin lived in San Francisco when he portrayed Inspector Joe Dominguez in the cop show “Nash Bridges” from 1996–2001. Chong was inspired into improv comedy after seeing San Francisco improv troupe The Committee. Cheech and Chong performed at San Francisco’s legendary Boarding House in the early 1970s.

“We left our hearts in San Francisco,” Chong said. “We’re opening a store in San Francisco to find them.”

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