NEW YORK - The Grammy Award-winning comedy duo Cheech and Chong based their 42-year career on counterculture humor with a particular emphasis on marijuana use. But these days Tommy Chong sees the recreational drug as something more than fodder for jokes about stoned hippies.
The 74-year-old comedian thinks legalizing marijuana on a federal level would offer numerous benefits, including a boost to the U.S. economy if it were taxed.
"Look at the situation we're in now. Sequesters. Cuts. Everything cut across the board. Now, the government is tapped into the biggest cash crop in the world," Chong said. "There's little manufacturing cost. You don't have to do anything except watch it grow and get a couple of hippies to cut it and then put it in a bag."
His ambitions for marijuana may be outsized, but he notes the potential medical uses that have already inspired some states to legalize the drug. Nearly 20 states have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana, and two of them - Colorado and Washington - have totally legalized it. And at least 12 states have pending legislation to legalize for medical use.
"Hemp itself is going to save the world," Chong said.
Chong's comedy partner, Richard "Cheech" Marin, 66, thinks legalization will come in the next couple of years.
"The tipping point is 24 states to legalize medical marijuana, so it's coming soon," said Marin.