Getting stoned with a ‘Rasta Mon’…REALLY???

getting stoned

by Kenneth Justice

~ “I haven’t smelled this much weed since my college days 30 years ago” said my friend.

Last week we were sitting at a trendy little beach-side restaurant alongside the Caribbean Sea in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is in Central America with the Pacific Ocean on one side of the country and the Caribbean Sea on the other side.

The Caribbean Coast gets a lot of flack in the travel brochures as being the ‘Seedier” part of the country which tourists should avoid…..but that is mainly due to racism, ignorance, and the ‘unofficial’ apartheid that lasted until 1975 when all of the Jamaican immigrants were forced to live along the Caribbean Coast and any who wandered too far west towards the capital city would be arrested. Of course, this small historical fact is left out of the history books since its not the kind of thing people are proud to tell tourists.

Drugs are definitely abundant along the various beach towns that hug the Caribbean Sea, and on weekends its not unusual to be sitting at a restaurant and see the various patron’s smoking pot and passing joints from table to table. Although drugs are technically illegal in Costa Rica, the laid-back Pura Vida philosophy toward them is that as long as you’re not getting into trouble the police will leave you alone.

The only real inconvenience regarding the drugs is that every 15 minutes or so you have to turn down one of the many Rasta-Men who come to your table hoping you will let him roll you a joint or sell you some cocaine for later (while smoking Weed is acceptable in public; doing cocaine is apparently something you better do in the privacy of your room or you’ll find yourself in jail pretty quickly).

The Rasta- Men are fascinating people and over the course of my week in the Caribbean this past trip I spent countless hours talking with them about life, their philosophy and everything else in-between.

The vast majority of them are vegetarian and while they obviously smoke pot; they themselves tend to never touch the more harsh drugs like cocaine (kind of ironic since they are more than willing to sell cocaine to the tourists). Yet, its not their dreadlocks, or accents, music, or cool-beach side attitude which mesmerizes me….its the way they connect with strangers and treat them like brothers and sisters that they’ve known all their lives.

Even if you tell them you don’t smoke marijuana it won’t put them off from sitting down at your table and hanging out with you. Rasta want to hang out, connect, share stories, and they don’t have any walls or the typical barriers that so many of us from the Western World walk around with in order to protect ourselves from others; they are who they are and they are not fearful of you seeing them.

Working in the jail and at a rehab clinic, so much of my time was spent trying to connect with the various clients and break through the multitude of emotional and psychological walls that they had built up over years and sometimes decades due to chemical substance abuse, bad relationships, physical and emotional abuse they had suffered from those close to them, and more.

So for me, it was refreshing to hang out with these Rasta who live in an entirely different world than I…. and yet to be treated by them as though we’d grown up together and known each other since childhood.

On one hand, what do I really have in common with them? Born in Chicago and reared in the Midwest my entire life, massive amounts of hours spent commuting in traffic, so much of my life revolving around schooling, college, studying, and computer technology overwhelming every moment of every day……….and they the simple Rasta who live in a third-world country, who spend most of their days hanging out with each other and sharing stories………aren’t we simply too different to be able to connect?

I suspect that is the problem with a lot of people in the Western World; they think they can’t connect with people who are too different.

—-) How often do millionaire businessmen/women hang out in the ghetto’s and drink coffee with homeless people?

—-) How often do Presidents and Prime Minster’s really spend hanging out with the middle class and experiencing real life?

—-) How often do pastors and priests step outside of their study and truly get to know the people of their community who hang out at bars, pubs and coffee houses?

My personal belief is that we are social creatures who have an innate desire to connect with humanity, and perhaps I’m wrong, but I believe its the cultural distinctions of the Western World which has led so many of us into being fearful of being open and honest with others.

Whether its the evening NEWS where we’re almost exclusively told that the world is filled with violence, murders, stabbings, and drug busts. Or its the bullying that is allowed to exist in schools; there are so many elements of Western Culture which seem to reinforce within us an inclination to close up and prevent others from seeing our true self.

I believe that its through connecting with each other, through sharing our experiences, and by breaking down the barriers that we’ve erected in our lives that we will each be able to grow and mature in a more healthy manner.

For me as a Christian, I have a lot of work to do in setting aright the intolerance and bigotry which the Church perpetuated for many hundreds of years, and I’m reminded that I have a responsibility to be open, less judgmental, more accepting, and to practice peace, for as the verse says, For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.

Just a few thoughts as I sat here drinking my coffee this morning,


If you haven’t heard I’m currently on a national and worldwide tour visiting 100 coffee shops throughout the 2014 year. Check my website for dates and locations.

Categories: Culture & Society

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57 replies

  1. Caffeine is your drug of choice. I like the word “high” because anything that you enjoy that much can make you feel really good. I’ve met all kids of people doing all kinds of different things in their lives. It is nice to have a chat with a stoner here and there but if you listen for long they are pretty repetitive. When I was in college I wrote a scientific paper about “ganga” smoking and the effects on a developing brain. It has physiological effects that are significant especially in youth. I like the way you made this an article about growing by meeting all kinds of people. It is the only way we know surely who we want to be.

  2. It’s interesting that the connection of humanity, different cultures or not, can still be a common language.

  3. This rings so true. There are so many ‘bad’ areas that people don’t want to venture into because of gangs and violence. When I pass those areas, I always wonder how much credit that fear has. Poorer areas may be prone to violence, yes, but I still see schools there and children running in the streets. Do they live every day fearing violence? I’d be willing to be most are just trying to get by with the hand dealt to them.

    I recently saw a post on Facebook lamenting the fact that there has been one school shooting everyday (I think… it might have been every week) so far this year. Someone commented on it to say that the number of school shootings has actually gone down. It’s the coverage of them that has gone up. I don’t know the truth of either of those statements, but it does make me wonder. Is it the media that causes people to think the world is getting worse?

    • TK,

      Exactly, a lot of suburban fears regarding “ghettos” tend to be stereotypes. It’s amazing how many people I’ve met in costa rica that are afraid to go to the Caribbean yet I’ve been there multiple times and feel like it is more “real” there and much less commercialized

    • This is how I felt about my volunteer time in Detroit. I never felt unsafe out there and yet violence is reported to happen on a daily basis there – most of which ISN’T gang related, it’s simply family, friends or acquaintances having issues. Detroit is poor and violence is more prevalent in poor areas due to high stress, etc., but it seems like that area gets judged unfairly. As for the kiddos I worked with while there – many are afraid just to walk to and from school as some areas are more prone to violence than others and yet they’re “used” to it – which is sad to say. I’d agree that many are simply trying to cope with the hand they’ve been dealt. There is some truth to how the media covers shootings and I personally feel it needs to lessen if there are to be even less shootings. As long as it’s in the media, it gives individuals ideas. The problem is – contrary to popular belief and as much as people allegedly gripe about hearing negative news, that’s EXACTLY what they want to watch and DO watch. The media is focused on those events because they know that’s what readers and watchers will respond to, it seems those stories are what people want to hear about despite their complaints. If people turned off the tv or stopped reading those stories in papers, coverage would lessen because the media needs to stay relevant and afloat as a business – they can’t afford to lose readers/viewers. I like your observations! Right on 🙂

    • “There is some truth to how the media covers shootings and I personally feel it needs to lessen if there are to be even less shootings”

      Ok Jen….so I’m gonna put that statement of yours in my vault and pull it out in the future when you give me hell about my media views 😉

      “that’s EXACTLY what they want to watch and DO watch. The media is focused on those events because they know that’s what readers and watchers will respond to, it seems those stories are what people want to hear about despite their complaints”

      I think this is a bit more tricky; I would have to see a research study done in which participants had a clear choice between watching a different kind of NEWS media than what we currently have. Because as it stands; The NEWS is only done one way and we can’t really choose to watch a different type of Evening NEWS…..

    • I haven’t EVER said the media couldn’t be an influence Kenneth – I only said it’s unfair to completely blame the media when human beings are more than capable of thinking for themselves. That’s totally different than saying the media is wholly to blame for our society issues – that’s just lazy in my mind. It’s not tricky to say that that’s what people watch. It’s evidenced by clicks on certain articles – hell WordPress gives stats for our blogs right? That’s the same for any news site. They’re going to know which articles are viewed most and talked about most via the comments. It’s not rocket science. There are complaints that all the news media covers celebrities – but guess what.. that’s what people watch! Hello that’s why there is that stupidity called reality t.v. – people watch it. The ratings show this to be true. People eat that crap up and that’s why it keeps showing up. As for one type of news – perhaps for the U.S., but many people are now watching multiple news sources from out of the country. In fact, I highly recommend to many people to read about U.S. news through out of the country venues because it’s less likely to carry certain biases (yes I’m aware of this fact also). Kenneth – just because I defend the media in terms being the only one to blame for our situation doesn’t mean I don’t understand what’s changed or the mistakes that are made. I’m not delusional or stupid. I’m plenty aware of the situation. All I say is that it’s not only to blame – let’s face it – many times a news article ISN’T as bad as it seems – many people don’t read as clearly as they think they do; they don’t always finish the article which means they don’t get all the information; only certain parts of an article may strike a person in such a way that that’s the only part they focus on, forgetting all the other pertinent information, etc., etc. You may be a thorough reader Kenneth but guess what – you’re in the minority. I know this not only because of my schooling but because of my personal experience in this job. You have no idea the number of times I had to point out certain facts in my articles to readers because they completely missed it or forget it was included. They love to get on me about not doing my job but they were the ones not reading the whole thing. I was taught to have to write at a 7th grade level – want to know why? Because that’s about all the majority of readers can get to – that’s it. You have to write at a level that will be understood or you’ll lose them. Plain and simple. There are inherent biases BECAUSE certain news sources only write on certain topics (i.e. a business journal, etc.). There is also the fact that there are space constraints. Print and pages are very costly so you have to make the most of space and thats part of why articles have to be to the point but also, as you’ve pointed out to me a few times, they have to be to the point because again, you’ll lose readers. They’ll only read for so long before they quit. They’ll bitch about how it went on for too long and didn’t get to the point. Or they’ll bitch that there wasn’t enough information in a short article. There’s no making people happy about how to cover anything. Do also try and remember than when reading, people bring their own biases to the table. No matter how unbiased an article may be written, people will perceive it how they choose. You and I may read the same article and take totally different points of view on how it was written. That’s just how it is, that’s the nature of the beast. Hell that’s part of why any type of communication can be difficult between humans. People often hear what they want to hear and leave out the rest – hence miscommunications. Hyper-sensitive people may not be able to take constructive criticism because all they “hear” is the criticism part but not how it’s meant to be helpful. It’s not mean to demean them but that’s how that information is perceived. That can’t be helped. It’s the same with reading.

  4. “One for all, and all for one”
    I think you refer to this phrase a lot, connecting and bringing people of all cultures closer to each other makes the world a better place to be, a clear view of understanding of choices we make, and united will bring more peace, less hate.
    God bless people that share their time with poor and the rich regardless their religious or color.
    Stay warm! 😊

    • “God bless people that share their time with poor and the rich regardless their religious or color.”

      Well, I must admit, I am human and if rich people wanted to give money to me, like hand me thousands of dollars for no reason……than you might find me spending more time with rich people 😉

    • Look who’s talking.. Vacations twice a year that last 6 month each.. Lol let’s dream on receiving money unless we earn it. I like your fantasy though 😃

  5. My friend…is there anything you like about America? Anything you think we are doing right? LOLOL It’s easy to compare our country with, others, especially after a lovely visit. After going to Paris I would love to have open air bread stores on every block. It’s also easy to compare, well pretty much everything all the time, but America is made up of people from everywhere and I think we do pretty well, actually. Each culture is different from the others and it’s truly difficult to compare living in Chicago with walking on the beach in a town in Costa Rica. But, just saying. American youth is living in Costa Rica, taking their jobs, changing their culture, we are doing all sorts of things, I guess. I’m not sure what you want from us…LOL All living in one place to help each other out and get ahead…hanging out together, sharing stories by the ocean, or Lake Michigan? We are who we are and OMG we have a lot of problems but I think other cultures do as well. We aren’t them. We can’t be them, whoever you’re writing about, anymore than they can be us. We can’t save the Costa Rican culture…we can’t even save ourselves and they aren’t children or a spotted owl, that needs protection or saving. They are adults who need to take care of their own culture. We are a violent, corrupt and fast paced society, without a doubt. We are a lot of things, good and bad and while I’m for positive change, I don’t really see how you can compare the life style of the tropics with Chicago or New York or any urban area in the U.S. A lot of us actually like our culture. Apparently everyone in the world hates us, for their own and for different reasons…we are destroying the world, one culture at a time…we are loud, rude, violent, nasty, hateful, greedy, we don’t know how to dress, and we all carry guns. When they meet us, or actually come here, people sometimes change their minds and if not, they continue to compare us to their tiny and controlled culture, where everyone is the same. They make fun of us and go on and on about w,hat American’s are like (as if they had a clue) until I either tell them to go back to wherever they came from or to just shut up. See, rudeness…apparently they weren’t being rude by bashing our culture, that seems to be okay. Anyway, I’m just trying to say that we are this thing and we are America, whatever that means, depending on what part of it you’re from. We don’t even like each other, so I guess this is no different…but I think we are pretty cool and I’m sticking to that. I think we have a lot of fabulous things here and people are nice and kind and I’m looking for good news once in awhile. I’m going out to play today, in a culture that offers me a variety of things to do. I have lots of choices, yes, even in the middle of winter. I can eat in a million different places. I can smile at the people I pass and see them smile back. i can go to a bookstore and not be bothered by anyone, or I can sit in the tiny cafe and watch people read and talk, if I feel like it. I can pretty much do anything I like and truthful, I like that. I like choices. I like my place in this country and I would not be happy in a place where people want to roll joints at my table or sit down with me, if I wanted to be alone. So…it’s every person for him/herself I guess. But there are some good things here, even if they are sometimes hard for people to find.

    • So you made a lot of good points and I don’t have the time to respond to all of them, but ultimately yes, there are things I like about America! (actually costa ricans refer to themselves as Americans as well….as do people who live in south American countries, but I won’t go on a rant here about my observation that people in the u.s. always seem to forget that they aren’t the only ‘Americans’ 😉 )

      But one of the problems is that what was unique to our culture here in the States… slowly fading away;

      If we were to talk about 1950’s and 1960’s u.s. culture there was so much to love and be proud of;

      —) but manufacturing is all but gone here in the u.s. everything we buy comes from other countries so that clothing, material goods….are really not connected to ‘our’ culture anymore. Sure there are still independent artists like yourself, but in large part; independent artistry no longer represents what we as a country are as a whole.

      —) automotive design back in the 50’s was awesome. We created beautiful artistic cars….but now there are thousands of articles about the decline of artistry in automotive design……there is little to be proud of now-a-days with regard to this facet of u.s. culture even though it was what made the Midwest famous throughout the world

      —) independent restaurants and cafe’s are now the minority in the u.s. This is a major change in our culture; chain restaurants and cafe’s (which are not evil) can hardly be viewed as culturally unique. What’s ‘cool’ about plastic booths as McDonald’s? Yet countries like costa rica, I would wager to say that 95% off all the restaurants and cafes are independently owned. Thus, the food in costa rica is very culturally unique and is connected to the people.

      I could give other examples but I hope this gives us enough building blocks for u to understand the observations I’ve made………u.s. culture is no longer what it was 40 years ago…and the direction we are going is one of culture homogeneity rather than a move towards artistic beauty………

  6. For me, this is one of the many beauties that travel always hits me with, Kenneth. I don’t know what it is, but you’re taken so completely out of your comfort zone in these foreign places, that it seems counterproductive to shut yourself off from embracing new cultures, people and experiences. I found certain people of the Caribbean to be exactly the same as you did, and one of my fondest memories is getting to know a group of resident divers on a trip to Roatan. They even cooked a delicious meal for us, I’d never experienced anything like it before.

    That said, I have many stories of my own that usually involve public transportation and homeless alcoholics who are fond of reminiscing and will give you their life stories at the drop of a hat when they sit beside you on the bus or a tram. But then this is Ireland, and those guys just want to talk to someone.

  7. I think the rasta thing is what mesmerized me with the hippie movement of the 60’s . . . I make frieds easily when I want to and in Portland in 69 we were all friends . . . and friendly.

    Today sucks, I fear for this generation and their social structures

  8. making a connection is so easy, but to many time we hold on to our own believes provided from around us.. and feel awkward when we do different from the normal standard..

  9. Kenneth, I am so enjoying your coffee house tour! I look forward to each new installment. I’m usually a lurker and don’t comment much but if you ever find yourself in Austin, TX, I’d love to show you some of our very “Keep Austin Weird” coffee shops. (“Keep Austin Weird” is one of our city mottos and has even been used in political election campaigns)! Thanks for the great series. I love reading about your experiences and your insights.

    • I’ve had a huge response from Austin and I’m trying to figure out if I can fit it in later in the year 🙂

    • Oh, you definitely should make Austin one of your stops! You won’t regret it. Just try not to come in the summer because it’s way to hot to sit outside. A lot of the coffee houses have outside seating areas and you’ll definitely want to hang out amongst the Live Oaks. Please keep me as one of your contacts if and when you do get here: I’d love to connect…

  10. I look forward to hearing about all sorts of situations and personalities you encounter..just in your daily life and in your travels…
    I like your point of this group of people in Costa Rica..being who they are..or who they are at the moment…it reminds me of a conversation I had last night…when the conversation moved to simple truths…and it was said…if I was being me..instead of protecting myself…I would do this…and as I lifted my eyes..I thought…ahh..the great dance of self protection….one I have honed the fine skill of…and we are so scared of showing our nature..our thoughts..our desires..because we have presented the illusion for so long…and yet yearned to simply be us..and accepted…connect.
    I learn things continually from this person…and the greatest is..give grace..especially when I am doing the same thing..and then you got to smile….

    • “and we are so scared of showing our nature..our thoughts..our desires..because we have presented the illusion for so long…and yet yearned to simply be us..and accepted…connect.”

      all I will say is well said 🙂

  11. The rasta pastor!

    Sorry – it’s one of those days! And your “lot of work” seems to be progressing with a gentle smile. Keep working KJ!

    • lol …well I don’t think I could be a Rasta Pastor cuz I’m not too into the whole marijuana thing 😉 it doesn’t really fit with someone who has degrees in chemical substance abuse counseling lol

  12. Very interesting post Kenny (please pardon my long absence). Made me chuckle. I think humans are social creatures, who want to connect with others; and for some, they connect through smoking weed, just as others connect through drinking coffee at Starbucks. On a different note, you’re traveling around the world this year? That’s wonderful! I know you will enjoy it.

    • Hey Kristi!!! Yup, I’m visiting 25 U.S. States and numerous countries as well…..trying to meet with fellow bloggers, readers, coffee shop owners and everyone else in between 🙂

  13. I’ve met your rasta-man on several trips to the Caribbean. It is interesting how they will sit down and start talking to you like you’ve known each other all your life. That is a bit hard to find in the U.S., except New Orleans, I have to go there at least twice a year to get my fix of talking to strangers, about anything and everything.

  14. Last month when I was in FL, on Cocoa Beach, a rasta came up to my group and offered to smoke us up. My immediate thought was it was some type of police sting trying to bust people for smoking weed and one of the guys and I turned away and veered closer to the water. Another of the guys in our group, however, had the opposite reaction. He immediately walked over to the man and the two struck up a conversation where the rasta guy told him about his band (rockafarians) while they shared the joint. Shortly after a homeless man joined them to get some puffs in. The whole situation made me super uncomfortable and I wanted no part in it, but I don’t know if that is because I am wary of strangers, wary of strangers offering drugs or just wary of being associated with illegal behavior. You are right when you say the Western Culture trains us to be fearful to open up to others. I don’t even think I know how to not be uncomfortable interacting with strangers in public, although I have no problem introducing myself to strangers at a job, or school or other pre-arranged functions. Maybe we all need to spend more time entertaining the idea that it wouldn’t be the end of the world to open up a bit more.

    • I’ve been to Cocoa Beach many times (I used to live in Florida) and I’m with you, its not really the type of beach that you smoke marijuana with strangers at…..its more of a family type beach…..although, there were a lot of American families in the Caribbean where I was at, but its definitely a different vibe there than in florida

  15. love this man it was a good read. I think we were made to share life. The problems come when we choose to do it alone.

  16. It is amazing how many walls people put up now. People out here are just afraid of people and it’s sad. To be fair, people seemed to have changed and it’s difficult to want to connect to people who aren’t as friendly or as open. People are just jerks now when they didn’t used to be. It’s unfortunate. Hopefully that will change with more people like yourself who are willing to be open to others. 🙂

    • “people seemed to have changed and its difficult to want to connect to people….”

      Right, and as I said in a different comment, its not that I ‘hate’ the United states….its just that our culture has changed so much since the way it was in the 1950’s….hell, its changed a lot since I was a kid in the 1980’s……people are much more cynical and closed off now-a-days.

  17. Kenneth, fantastic article! I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica and absolutely loved visiting the Caribbean side, from Limón centro to Cahuita and Puerto Viejo. Of course, I was always advised by other Costa Ricans to not go there, and if I do, to be careful. Really, it was disguised racism. I know of the Rasta’s you’re talking about!

  18. Cahuita was hands down my favorite place in Costa Rica. Most of Costa Rica has zero culture except for expats and those who exploit and serve them. The east coast, thanks to the racism you mentioned, is much less spoiled.

    • David,

      Costa Rica has a different ‘kind’ of culture. Because I would say that the country as a whole is focused on nature. The way they preserve the national parks all over the country, even putting the tourism aside, is a culture all to itself 🙂

    • David, I beg to differ. There is actually a lot of culture in Costa Rica, even outside of the Limon province.

  19. “I believe that its through connecting with each other, through sharing our experiences, and by breaking down the barriers that we’ve erected in our lives that we will each be able to grow and mature in a more healthy manner.”

    Totally agree with you! ^^

  20. I guess we also have to remember that all of us were one of the crowd before we became ministers, priests, counsellors, CEOs, office workers or Prime Ministers & Presidents. Many of us even smoked the odd joint.

    Most millionaires were ordinary people before they made their money.

    A friend and I went to a lecture by the Buddhist monk Sogyal Rinpoche a few years ago and my friend, who was weighed down with the troublesome lives of her 3 children at the time, whispered in my ear “What can a Buddhist Monk know about marriage and bringing up children” and I reminded her that many monks were simply men from an ordinary community before they studied and ordained – they sometimes even married and had children. You don’t have to experience something to have knowledge of, or compassion for, others. You can empathise without having had the same experience.

    Shame we, in the Western World, are so divided in our outlook. Racial and Class prejudice have no place in my book. President, Queen, road sweeper or coffee waitress – all deserve the same curtesy and respect.

  21. “For me as a Christian, I have a lot of work to do in setting aright the intolerance and bigotry which the Church perpetuated for many hundreds of years, and I’m reminded that I have a responsibility to be open, less judgmental, more accepting, and to practice peace, for as the verse says, For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.”

    That, my dear, was golden!

  22. Enjoyed very much

    Although…Kenneth…your picture – he’s a rather conservative looking rastafarian, if you don’t mind me saying, requires a couple more days growth on the bonce. I think you’ll find I am correct in this matter 🙂

    I studied rasta at college, no, no really, it was a module, ‘Ras Tafari, king of kings’ and also no second person address, hence ‘I and I’ are friends, rather than the ‘you and me,’ or something like that, I missed so many classes smoking weed etc ho ho

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