Do you know the Seattle-born weed man behind songs like Kush Morning and Weed Like Mine? Bobby Hustle is an international reggae artist and daily weed smoker. Touring Costa Rica in 2016 for what was supposed to be a two-week, six-show promotional tour for his debut album, “It’s the Hustle,” Bobby’s whole world was turned upside down in an instant.
Fast-forward nearly two years after having his passport confiscated, Bobby was finally acquitted in December 2017 and allowed to leave Costa Rica. Freshly back home in Seattle, I got a chance to chat with him about all that transpired.
Kelly Guava Jelly: What happened that fateful night?
Bobby Hustle: We were leaving Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Caribbean side, headed for Jaco Beach on the Pacific. We had just completed the fourth show of the tour the night before. Things were going really well up to that point. I was feeling like I had a great shot at breaking into the market there. I was mad tired from three late nights in a row, so I was trying to catch some sleep in the back seat of the sedan we were riding in. Without going into great detail, our car got stopped at a roadblock spot check, and we were asked to pull over and exit the vehicle. Next thing I know the cops are saying, “¡Manos arriba!” and coming out of the car with packs [filled with marijuana]. At this point I spoke no Spanish.
A few hours later I found myself sitting in a holding cell in Limón city, where I would spend the next three days waiting for an arraignment hearing. The prosecutor wanted to charge me as an accomplice to drug trafficking, with a penalty of 8-15 years in prison. The judge said there wasn’t enough evidence to hold me in jail during the ensuing investigation period, but there was enough to keep me in the country. So the court took my passport, cash and phone, but let me out of jail.
Who did you lean on during that time?
A local family took me in. They gave me a place to stay, food and a strong link in the community for the first six months while I lived with them. They became my extended family for life. [Within] the community of artists and musicians I knew, I developed a great network of people to lean on. And I can’t forget my family and friends worldwide who sent support in all its forms and never doubted my innocence or resolve.
What is weed culture like in Costa Rica?
Weed culture in Costa Rica is pervasive. It’s not illegal to consume small amounts of it. However, distribution is illegal, so there is a grey area. After living there almost two years, it seems to me that weed is an accepted part of the general culture there.
What do you think about prisoners being locked up all over the world for possessing a plant?
I think their incarceration is a crime in itself. And the fact that it disproportionally affects [people of color] even more is an example of our broken legal system here in the U.S. But it is a worldwide problem, for sure. I’m so thankful to have been acquitted and avoided real time, but now I know more than ever that things need to change. I knew it before, now I know it.
How do we liberate people’s minds about marijuana?
We, as everyday people, just need to continue leading by example. You can’t force anyone to like something or accept it, but if they see you using marijuana and succeeding in life, maybe their preconceived notions or perceptions of cannabis will change. Also, activism is good. And voting.
How does it feel to be free in Seattle?
It feels crazy good. Like it’s supposed to. Surreal. But also like I never left. Back on my mission, back in the studio working on a new project so I can start touring again. Link up for bookings—it’s the Hustle!
Bobby’s story is one of triumph. We have all too often heard stories like his, where Mother Nature’s gift, cannabis, is held against us as a criminal offense. Washington state’s laws are a great place to start with normalizing cannabis culture, but it doesn’t end there. Every person should have the right to sow, cultivate, harvest, transport and consume a plant.
International decriminalization is a must! Therefore, take Bobby’s advice: be active in your community, vote and show the world how an everyday weed-lover can also be a successful, productive citizen. Stay high!