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Tommy Chong Wants to Be Walmart of Marijuana

In the Wild West that is the emerging legal cannabis sector, one thing is missing so far: A recognizable brand name. Tommy Chong aims to change that.

The 76-year-old veteran of stoner-comedy duo Cheech and Chong has lent his endorsement to several pot-related products already — his Chong Star brand cannabis blend debuts in Colorado next week, there’s hemp-infused Chongwater in the works, and he’s also getting buzz for his line of clothing wipes that remove that telltale pot reek. More products bearing Chong’s likeness are on the way, he says, possibly including a “Chongrola” joint rolling machine that’ll make his signature giant-sized spliffs, from Amsterdam-based Futurola.

In a phone interview with Forbes earlier this week, Chong revealed he’s in talks with a hedge fund about investment in a Cheech & Chong pot brand, and seeing nibbles of interest from other parties as well.

The Los Angeles-based comedian does seem perfectly positioned to be the face of legal pot. His experiences with weed are the stuff of legend.

See Tommy Chong's New Television Commercial

Besides the ’60s yuks, Chong claims he beat prostate cancer with a cannabis oil protocol two years ago, and he went to jail for nine months in 2004 for shipping bongs across state lines. The latter event turned him into a passionate cannabis advocate.

“I had to go through some trials and tribulations,” Chong says. “But now, I’m going to be the Sam Walton of pot.”

To raise his public profile, he also recently threw himself back into the limelight by appearing on Dancing With the Stars.

That brought him to the attention of Mike Stetler, owner of Marisol Therapeutics in Pueblo, Colo., when he was looking to make a splash opening his legal pot shop this spring. He hired Chong to make a personal appearance, and their relationship grew from there to include Marisol’s development and distribution of the Chong Star blend. In a market where price is thus far fairly consistent, Chong says, there’ll be opportunity for brand loyalty to drive sales.

Next, he envisions partnering with Marisol to spread Chong Star nationwide, as legalization spreads, which Chong expects to happen rapidly.

“It’s a tsunami that cannot be stopped,” he says. “I predict within two years, it’ll be totally legal, and then the whole rest of the world will fall in line. And we’ll be the Starbucks of pot, eventually.”

The idea of a legal-pot chain, or perhaps even a franchise brand, is an intriguing one. There are a few emerging penny-stock cannabis startups, but it’s clearly still very early days in terms of creating public companies investors could get a piece of. Plenty of room for one more with a celebrity face to drive it.

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