Five years ago, Jim Belushi walked away from Hollywood to start a new life as a farmer—a marijuana farmer. But the endeavor is not just an excuse to having his own personal supply. As Belushi told Newsweek recently, cannabis has helped him along a personal “path of healing,” to deal with the trauma of his brother’s death.
His brother, of course, was the legendary John Belushi. John, who died of a drug overdose in March of 1982, would have turned 72 years old on January 24. Jim talked with Newsweek about honoring his brother, and what goes into growing legal marijuana, the latter of which can be glimpsed at on Growing Belushi, a reality show about Belushi’s Farm that premiered last August on the Discovery Channel.
Despite being a passionate cannabis grower, 66-year-old Jim Belushi is not a stoner, though. He calls himself a “microdoser” who enjoys only one toke of weed at a time, in addition to a light dosage of an edible to help him sleep. It’s also not entirely true to say that he’s turned his back on Hollywood, although he’s become more selective in the roles that he accepts. (David Lynch fans should’ve spotted him in a recurring role on the 2017 revival of Twin Peaks.)
A friend of mine had some beautiful property by the Rogue River that I used to visit. One day, I dove into the river naked. I came out like a baptism, and I knew I had to find some land. I bought this old Elks Lodge picnic grounds that was falling apart, and when my neighbor died, I bought his property, too.
What inspired you to start a marijuana-growing business?
Well, I had 93 acres all of a sudden, so what do you do with it? And that year, cannabis became legal for recreational use in Oregon. I thought, “What the hell?”
I read that one of the strains you grow is the same strain smoked on Saturday Night Live back in the ’70s. Is that true?
Yes, that is true. Danny Aykroyd told me about it. When I decided to grow cannabis, he said, “You’re going to need Captain Jack.”
[Ed.’s note: Captain Jack is a notorious cannabis breeder who allegedly supplied SNL in the 1970s.]
Is that your favorite strain at Belushi’s Farm?
I have another one I really like. I’ll tell you the story about it. I came down the stairs one night after a long day. My wife said, “Let’s go out to eat. What do you have a taste for?” I said I had the taste for a cheeseburger. She said, “That’s a little heavy for me. Anything else?”
I said, “What about some sushi?” She said, “I had sushi with my mom last night. Anything else?” I’m like, “What are you wasting my time for?” I angrily go upstairs and take a hit of this strain I have called “Cherry Pie.” I come down back downstairs, and said, “Baby, we can go to Taco Bell as long as you’re sitting across from me.” Now I call that strain “The Marriage Counselor.”
Growing Belushi was a hit for Discovery. Do you know if there will be a second season?
Yes. There will be. It will probably be out in late summer or fall of this year.
When did you first learn about like the medical properties of cannabis?
Well, I first got into growing due to agriculture. I’d take my car out on the road for personal appearances at different dispensaries. At one, there was a huge line for people to get inside. So, I’m walking down the line, slapping people on the back, letting them take a picture with me or whatever. I walk up to one guy who’s looking at me, and I couldn’t pass him.
I stopped and said, “Hey, man. How are you doing? You all right?” He said, “I was a medic in Iraq. I saw things happen to the human body that no person should ever witness. I have what they call Triple PTSD. I don’t know what that means. All I know is they gave me a bottle of 600 OxyContins. I have a wife and two children. My PTSD is so bad that I couldn’t talk to them, and I couldn’t sleep. Your Black Diamond OG [a strain at Belushi’s Farm] is the only strain that helps me talk to my wife, my children, and I sleep.”
And he teared up, and the f**ker hugged me so hard. And I said, “Hey, man. I didn’t make it!” And he said, “No, but you’re the steward.” That was a paradigm shift for me and cannabis.
Dan Aykroyd recently said that if John Belushi had remained a pothead he’d still be alive today.
Yes, he would.
Do you feel like a part of the farm and your cannabis advocacy is a way of honoring him?
Absolutely. It’s my own path of healing that trauma of his death. In the TV show, we go down to Colombia. We were flying over cocaine fields, where the stuff could have come from that killed my brother. We didn’t know what we were shooting, and s**t about John came out. It was like he sent me on this journey.
Recently, I watched the R.J. Cutler documentary Belushi, which you provided some stories for. Are you able to watch the finished projects about your brother?
My brother died of a drug overdose on an international scale. If I can survive that, there’s nothing tough in life, my friend. [Laughs.] One more thing? I did Saturday Night Live! I tell you, that was the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Everything’s been easy since then, including divorce. So, was it tough to watch the documentary? It was beautiful. Cutler finally showed his passion, his genius. By the way, it helped me with my family. During the last half hour of watching it, my kids were crying. I said, “Imagine that feeling and sitting on that feeling for 30 years.”
This Sunday, January 24, would be his 72nd birthday. Do you have any traditions that you do on his birthday?
Not really. I call my little brother, because he was born on the same day. Isn’t that weird? My mom and dad must have had sex at the same time every year. [Laughs.] But we just pal around, tell some stories, argue about how old [John] would be. So, now you gave me the information, and I’ll win all the arguments. John’s 72! I got it from Newsweek! He’s 72!
Do you have any particular memories about him that seem to come up more than others around his birthday?
I’ll tell you the one that really comes up the most, because January 24 is around the end of football season. John used to call me during the football game. And we would watch the games together while on the phone. He would say something, then I would, and there would be long silences.
What do you think John would be doing today if he were still alive? Would he have segued into dramatic acting?
John and Billy Murray were very connected and very close. It’s like Billy picked up John’s spirit and took it with him. I think the career that Billy’s had, John probably would have had the same kind of career.
Was becoming a part of the Blues Brothers another way to honor John?
The way that came about was Danny one day said, “Jimmy, I’d like you to do the Blues Brothers with me in Ottawa.” I said, Danny, what are you talking about? “Uh, yeah, I think it’s time for you to take over the legacy that your brother started, and we will keep the memory and music of Jake Blues [John’s character] alive.”
I said, “It would be f**king weird me taking that over. I think I’d get killed for it.” Danny said, “Absolutely not. It’s like a law firm. When one of the partners goes down, one of his brothers or sons takes over. I’ll see you in Ottawa.” “But I don’t know how to sing the blues!” “Well, you better learn.”
Did you ever smoke weed with John?
No. I don’t think so. He was five-and-a-half years older than me, so there was a separation. Honestly, I can only remember on one hand, two hands the advice he ever gave me about being an actor.
What kind of advice did he give you?
The one that I still wrestle with is…You know the “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger” sketch?
That was John doing my father and my uncle Paul. They had a diner called Olympia Lunch in Logan Square in Chicago. So, after that sketch, another restaurant in Chicago started saying John got the idea from them. I was so mad when I found out, and I went to John. He said, “Jimmy, he [the restaurant owner] wouldn’t have taken [the credit] if he didn’t need it.” Anytime someone stole a bicycle from my backyard, and I’d be really upset, John would say, “They must have needed the money. They must have needed it.”
I think about his compassion, and how cannabis is the pathway to healing for so much. It makes you feel good. We shouldn’t feel guilty about feeling good. And it really helped with my trauma. I mean, John’s death… Everybody knew. Over these many years, wherever I go, I have people that will seek me out. They’ll start talking to me, then out of the blue, the conversations turns to them saying, “I lost my brother to a drug overdose. I lost my sister to a drug overdose.” They come to me because they’re hoping for some relief, or something that other people don’t understand. So, I thought to myself, “Ah. That’s why I’m here.”