A lot rode on my first taste of Cheech’s Private Stash, a premium cannabis brand fronted by Cheech Marin, the Chicano half of the comedy improv duo that fed my head in my formative years.

By the time “Up In Smoke” dropped on Sept. 15, 1978, portraying and defining cannabis culture in a uniquely multicultural California way, I was 13 years old and totally assimilated in Cheech and Chong, two grenudo marijuanos who looked and talked like my older Mexican-American cousins, my Aunt Frank, her hippie friends Eddie and Benny and various vatos and low-riders in my family’s Tortilla Flats homestead ‘hood near the railroad tracks in Roseville.

Even before I’d first bought and tried pot — a “lid,” the Seventies’ name for an ounce, purchased with money I’d earned delivering the afternoon newspaper — I could recite lines from Cheech and Chong comedy albums word-for-word like kids today spew rappers’ rhymes.

Who ate all the baloney?

Dave’s not here.

Bailiff, whack his pee-pee! 

Good thing we no step. 

No stems, no seeds that you don’t need.

Acapulco Gold is …

{make toke sound then hold breath through next line}

Bad-ass weed. 

Cheech’s Private Stash arrived with the baggage and burden of smoking your old heroes. My encounter last year with Tommy Chong’s Chong’s Choice joints was a bummer.   I didn’t have the higest hopes for Cheech’s Private Stash until I saw the high prices of Cheech’s Private Stash eighths in a Sacramento store: up to $65 with tax.

Cheech’s Private Stash had better be some bad-ass weed, que no?

cheechprivatestashBrand Experience

Brands matter now more than ever in cannabis retailing. In California, all cannabis must be sold pre-packaged and sealed. No more deli sales. No more opening jars for closer looks and deep whiffs.  Brand recognition and shelf position matters.

In our celebrity-driven culture, cannabis is not immune from the influence of stars. Snoop Dogg. Willie Nelson. Tommy Chong. Berner. All musicians. All cannabis icons. All cannabis brands. When you buy their weed, you’re buying your heroes. You like their work. You like them.  You know they know weed. You trust them. Right?

I’ve been waiting  to try Cheech’s Private Stash for more than a year — and, really, most of my life. Last month, Cheech’s Private Stash started distributing in Northern California.  (It’s now available statewide and in Nevada and Colorado.) Cheech Marin’s son, Joey, delivered  samples to me when he supplied Sacramento’ retail shops All About Wellness and Zen Gardens. I recognized Cheech’s brand instantly.  Cheech’s red beanie. tops the logo. “Stash” is shaped in a font that evokes Cheech’s Seventies-era bigote mustache. Forty-five years of cannabis culture, California culture and Chicano culture rode on these glass jar eighths of sativa, indica and hybrid weed.

I first heard of Cheech and Chong in 1973. “Los Cochinos” won a Grammy. Comedy albums circulated like contraband and hand-me-downs among friends and family in those days. I knew “Los Cochinos”  well; I was regularly called a little pig by my Spanish-speaking parents. And in addition to just being funny, the album was fun — interactive with cut-out and slide-outs  revealing  places to stash pot inside a car.  Cheech — short for chicharrones, a favorite childhood snack — was an instant hero, more likable than hard-druggie folkie Jerry Garcia, another Hispanic icon from a hippiefied Chicano youth accented with a head shop on the corner and T-shirts proclaiming Viva La Raza and A Friend with Weed Is a Friend Indeed.


Three Amigos

The Cheech’s Private Stash I sampled was grown by small indoor cultivators in San Francisco.  Cultivation information is printed on each label. You’ll need smartphone bar-code and QR scanner apps for detailed lab-test information on THC levels, other cannabinoid content and terpene profiles.  Helpful label information includes cultivation and packaging dates. Except for one joint rolled from a little sativa, indica and hybrid from each jar, I smoked Cheech’s Private Stash out of a chillum. Cures were great. Small- and medium-sized buds packaged in early August were fragrent and frosty when I opened them on Friday.

Do Si Dos

Grown by DCSM IV, a small indoor San Francisco cultivator, Cheech’s Do Si Dos is true to the strain’s Girl Scout Cookies hybrid heritage. It’s like spraying all of your senses with an intense herbal mist of woody spice and minty coolness that numbs eyeballs,  eases aches and lifts spirits.

Jamaican Rise

Grown by Butter Brand, a small indoor San Francisco cultivator, Cheech’s Jamaican Rise is redolent of acidic candy — setting off salivary glands in the back of the mouth on first toke, filling throat and nose with fruity, tart tang and spreading puffy, tingling elation across your face like good sativas do.

Purple Primate

Grown by Butter Brand, a small indoor San Francisco cultivator,Cheech’s Purple Primate is Grape Ape by another name. Although only lightly purple in color, Purple Primate is Deep Purple in pleasure, as in the sweet relaxation brought by listening to classic English rock after smoking primo indica.

Bottom Line

I started smoking pot in the Seventies, when weed really was weed and Cheech Marin smoked his share of schwag like everyone else.  Man, has cannabis changed since I bought my first Mexican brick weed from a neighbor named Rocky.  Buying cannabis today from a state-licensed retail store is a mind-blowing experience by comparison.

Without the ability to open jars for visual and olfactory explorations of the pot you’re about to buy, consumers are left to rely on other influences.

I admire Cheech Marin. After the Seventies, he went on to a real Hollywood movie and television acting career. His movie comedy “Born in East L.A.” may have parodied a Bruce Springsteen song but is a scary reflection of bias everyone of Mexican heritage suffers. He collects Chicano art.

Cannabis endorsed by name by a guy who’s represented pot in both English and Spanish in my cultural consciousness since I was 8 years old might sway me the next time I’m shopping for mid-range eighths priced $50 and above.

I give Cheech’s Private Stash — product, packaging, price, pleasure and value — an A-minus, which is better than my all-time favorite Cheech lyrics: “Mexican-Americans love education so they go to night school / and they take Spanish and get a B.”

If you were a Chicano kid in California in the Seventies, you’ll hella sabes.