Famous comedy duo meets customers at Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately

Famous comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong meet Robert Powers, of Peterborough, New Hampshire, at the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday.

Famous comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong meet Robert Powers, of Peterborough, New Hampshire, at the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Greenfield residents Robert and John Knight meet comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong at the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday.

Greenfield residents Robert and John Knight meet comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong at the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday.

Greg Gottier, of Coventry, Connecticut, meets Tommy Chong at the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday.

Greg Gottier, of Coventry, Connecticut, meets Tommy Chong at the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Janet Condon, of Torrington Connecticut, meets comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong at the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday.

Janet Condon, of Torrington Connecticut, meets comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong at the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Lisa O’Brien and Jessi Lemos, of Quincy, dressed up as Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong to meet the comedy duo at the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday.

Lisa O’Brien and Jessi Lemos, of Quincy, dressed up as Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong to meet the comedy duo at the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Hundreds of people came from surrounding states for the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday.

Hundreds of people came from surrounding states for the grand opening of Cheech & Chong’s Dispensoria in Whately on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 11-13-2023 3:25 PM

WHATELY — A visit from two special guests highlighted Saturday’s official rebranding of three Pioneer Valley marijuana dispensaries.

Happy Feelings stores in Whately, Greenfield and Northampton became Cheech & Chong’s Dispensorias last weekend. Although the Whately store opened in August, with the two additional locations following suit in September, the dispensaries’ operator, ToroVerde, has now secured a partnership with famous comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. With this celebrity partnership and rebranding, Marin and Chong have launched their first three dispensaries in the country.

“My aim is to become one of the richest men in the world,” Chong said jokingly. “I am on my way with the dispensaries in Massachusetts.”

The two certainly made money this weekend. Hundreds of people came to the brand’s grand opening celebration from the area and surrounding states to meet the comedians and check out the new celebrity-branded dispensary. To get a ticket to meet the two, customers had to spend $100 in the store.

“I think this shows the industry is moving in the right direction,” customer Neriah Bachelder, of Nashua, New Hampshire, said about the brand deal. Bachelder said he decided to come to the grand opening because it was his birthday and he thought meeting the comedians would be a nice present for himself.

Also in line to check out the new dispensary was Laura Huard of Springfield. She is the owner of a CBD skin care company called Hole In The Wall Care.

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“It breaks the stigma and lets people know that cannabis isn’t for just your average stoner. It is good for a lot of different purposes,” she said about the partnership.

The region is no stranger to pushing the boundaries of the cannabis industry. The owners of Franklin County’s only strip club, Club Castaway, have floated the idea of turning the club into a topless dispensary, which they say would be the first in the nation. Additionally, about a year ago, businessman and entertainment icon Sean “Diddy” Combs bought Greenfield’s Patriot Care dispensary, connecting another big name with a local business.

In an interview before his visit to Whately, Chong spoke about marijuana’s legalization, comedy and the new brand.

“Legalization ended our career as far as being current,” Chong said.

Chong and Marin’s comedy career centered around using the drug to be daring and make a statement.

“It turns out cannabis is medicine more than anything,” Chong said. “People of all ages are partaking. They aren’t just hippy war protesters.”

While legalization made Cheech & Chong’s stoner humor have less gravity than it did before, it opened up a different market for the duo. Chong said the two decided to “hop on the legal train” and promote the legal sale of marijuana with their branding. Now that people are no longer in fear of being incarcerated for using the drug, Chong said, there is a large market of people who see the benefits.

Chong said he thinks Massachusetts has done a great job in the legalization process, so he decided to do his brand deal here, despite it being located across the country from his Los Angeles home.

“Massachusetts is a very civilized area, especially when it comes to cannabis. The people are very liberal, very Canadian-like,” said Chong, a native of Alberta, Canada.

The celebrity brand sells many products from its own line including THC gummies and zero-calorie THC sodas. Chong said they have high-quality products for sale that will keep customers coming back for more.

The comic said he turned down past brand deals for alcohol products given the dangerousness of the substance. He cited fears of having his face pictured on bottles of a product that could cause car crashes. By comparison, he feels cannabis “calms you down from making mistakes.”

During the past decade, car accidents involving cannabis have been rising. The New York Times cited an analysis of U.S. public safety data showing that from 2000 to 2018, the percentage of vehicle fatalities involving cannabis increased from 9% to about 22%. The percentage of fatalities involving alcohol stayed roughly the same during this period.

Chong noted there are certainly downsides to the drug and some people can have negative experiences while using, so it is not for everyone. He plans to use his platform for education, adding that he feels using cannabis can broaden a person’s spirituality.

“Any creative endeavor, you take a little and it will keep you going,” Chong said.

Chong said he likes to think “God has a good sense of humor.” On the same ballot where Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts.

“All of this will give you something to think about,” Chong said. “But you will be so stoned you will be able to see the humor in it all.”

Reach Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.