US actor Jim Belushi has enjoyed a long and illustrious career, appearing on TV’s Saturday Night Live, his own sitcom According to Jim, and such hit movies as Red Heat and K-9. Even so, he remains best known as the younger brother of comedy legend John Belushi, who died from a drugs overdose in 1982.

Around a decade ago, Belushi – a devout Albanian Orthodox Christian – left Hollywood and turned instead to the country life. Everyone was surprised when this sober-living star suddenly decided to farm cannabis. The journey put him in touch with his brother’s struggles, and gave him a new insight to how drugs affect mental health.

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Born on June 15, 1954, Belushi was raised with his siblings John, Marian and Billy in Wheaton, Chicago. Their father Adam was Albanian, their mother was the daughter of Albanian immigrants, and all the children were raised in the Albanian Orthodox Church.

Religion remains a significant part of Jim Belushi’s life. As an adult, he visited and received blessings from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Albanian culture is also close to his heart: he has commented on his early fame, “There were only three famous Albanians. There was Mother Teresa, my brother John, and me.”

After John Belushi’s drug-related death, Jim partially took over his brother’s role in the Blues Brothers franchise, voicing Jake Blues in the animated TV series. He also followed in his brothers footsteps by becoming a cast member on Saturday Night Live.

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From there, Belushi enjoyed a successful movie career. As well as headlining movies like The Principal, Real Men and K-9, he also co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Heat, and would make cameo appearances in subsequent Schwarzenegger movies Last Action Hero and Jingle All the Way.

Still, for all his own success, Belushi’s late brother has always remained an area of great interest to fans and journalists. In a 1992 interview, he refused to discuss how he had coped with John’s death, but expressed appreciation for the wide range of therapy options out there.

“I can’t talk about it,” he said. ”I can say that I’m very interested in finding out where I am in this world and healing the things that hurt me. I’m not repelled by anything that helps, whether it’s yoga or being a born-again Christian or 12-step programs or therapy… but it’s nobody’s business.”

Around 2009, just as he completed filming his sitcom According to Jim (which began in 2001 and ran for eight seasons), Belushi took a vacation with his family and stayed at a friend’s ranch in Southern Oregon. The property was near the famous Rogue River, where Belushi had a revelation.

“I went naked into the cold-a** river!” he recalled in 2019. “When I came out, I thought ‘I belong here.'” He began house-hunting, and a few years later, he bought a 13-acre riverside site in Eagle Point, Oregon. Two buildings from the 1930s, plus a rotting bandstand, were the main signs of life.

At this location, Belushi built an environmentally-friendly house from reclaimed wood, fitted with geothermal heating and insulation. He also had a concert stage constructed, where he put on several concerts to raise funds for charity.

When his friend and neighbour died suddenly in 2014, Belushi decided to buy the man’s farmland, adding a further 80 acres to his portfolio. At first, the star considered renting the land to a farmer or planting soybeans. However, in July 2015, a new opportunity arose as Oregon legalized cannabis cultivation and use.

Not only did Belushi decide to start farming weed – he made a three-season TV series about the process, entitled Growing Belushi. He started out with just 48 plants.

Cannabis was never a part of his youth, according to Belushi: “I never got high or drunk,” he has stated. “I didn’t want anything getting in the way of my work.” Even since he began farming the crop, he only partakes occasionally in pot-infused chocolates.

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But the things he learned about the drug trade while filming Growing Belushi gave him food for thought, especially in light of his famous brother’s drugs-related death. One episode in which Belushi flies to Colombia to purchase cannabis strains, he muses, “I wonder if the cocaine that was involved in my brother’s death came from one of these fields.”

“I wanted to get down in that coca field and pull it up from the roots and look at it in the eye and say, ‘Stop hurting people and families,'” he later noted. “If they could turn those fields into cannabis, those families could make their living farming, and they could make a plant that could heal people — spiritually, physically, emotionally.”

Within five years, Belushi’s farm had become a full-time occupation. He has spoken in evangelical praise of his farm’s site. “There’s a line between Napa and about 20 miles above me that’s a [latitudinal] parallel,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

“They say that God on the seventh day dragged his hand along that parallel, all the way from Napa and Southern Oregon, through the groves and cornfields of Illinois, all the way to Bordeaux and Burgundy,” he added. “That parallel just has the perfect sun, soil, temperatures and water.”

The farming life presented the star with a new passion, and he has said he doesn’t miss Hollywood at all. “I’ve done it,” he has said of stardom. “I raised my kids there, went to all the premieres. I went to award shows. I’ve been to Toscana 1,600 times. I have a grateful feeling for the life I had there — I’m just moving on to kind of a new reinvention.”

In another major life change, Belushi and his wife of two decades, Jennifer Sloan, filed for divorce in 2021. The couple have two children, daughter Jamison and son Jared; Belushi has another son, Robert, from his earlier marriage to Sandra Davenport. He is currently reported to be single.

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Among Belushi’s most surprising comments is his belief that his brother John could have survived to old age, if he had chosen cannabis over other drugs – a sentiment echoed by his close friend and John’s Blues Brothers co-star Dan Aykroyd.

Belushi has spoken about weed’s alleged benefits in coping with trauma, grief and stress. He described once seeing a homeless woman in Portland who was screaming, apparently in the midst of a mental illness episode.

“I thought to myself, ‘If I could just give her an edible, it may at least stop the screaming for her,'” Belushi recalled. “We’re all screaming from something — whether it’s the loss of a big job, a divorce, some trauma, a severe illness in one’s family. [Or] whether it’s my brother John, who died of a drug overdose.”