“I’ve Painted at Least Friggin’ 50 Rick and Mortys”

An Interview with Hugus, New York City Weed Bodega Muralist
The artist Hugus in a camouflage hood, dark jacket and black gloves, at work on a colorful mural
Images: Hugus

by Mark Yarm

This month marks three years since cannabis became legal in New York State. With the granting of official dispensary licenses unfolding too slowly to meet demand, the gray market has exploded—and with it, a signature retail look. The NYC Independent Budget Office estimated last summer that there were around 1,500 unlicensed cannabis retailers around the five boroughs, and many of the stores have evolved to resemble each other: “part smoke shop, part convenience store, part dispensary, all packaged in the aesthetic of a Monster Energy drink,” as Curbed described it. A commonplace feature of these weed bodegas is eye-popping murals of stoner-friendly cartoon characters, occasionally getting high themselves: Homer and Bart, Rick and Morty, Mickey and Donald, SpongeBob, Stewie Griffin, Bugs Bunny, Mr. Monopoly, and so on.

Hugo Mejía, a 34-year-old graffiti artist who hails from Ecuador and goes by Hugus, is one of New York’s top smoke shop muralists. He says that he’s painted, solo and with others, some 75 weed bodega murals in the city.

It’s a paywall, but a small one

Read this post and get our weekdaily newsletter for $3 a month