High: Confessions of a Pot Smuggler

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9780679312796: High: Confessions of a Pot Smuggler

How a privileged son of Newfoundland became one of the world’s most efficient marijuana traffickers – and then gave it all up.

An intriguing ad ran in the Employment Wanted section of a Toronto newspaper in February 2001:

Having successfully completed a ten-year sentence, incident free, for importing 75 tons of marijuana into the United States, I am now seeking a legal and legitimate means to support myself and my family.

Business experience: Owned and operated a successful fishing business -- multi-vessel, one airplane, one island and processing facility. Simultaneously owned and operated a fleet of tractor-trailer trucks conducting business in the western United States. During this time I also participated in the executive level management of 120 people worldwide in a successful pot-smuggling venture with revenues in excess of $100-million US annually...

Among the advertiser’s references was the US district attorney who was responsible for his arrest in 1990 and who had reminded the trial judge that the offence could carry the death penalty. The ad made news around the world and also captured the resilient spirit of Brian O’Dea, a remarkable man who, even in his darkest hours of addiction and criminality, never lost the love of family and friends.

The O’Dea family is well known in government and legal circles in Newfoundland. But the family’s prominence could not protect their middle son from sexual abuse at the hands of priests. Brian became the black sheep, and turned to drugs in his late teens for the money, for the excitement, and for an escape from himself. Twenty-five years later, when the cops finally knocked on his door at the end of a massive DEA investigation, he had given up the trade and was a recovered cocaine addict working as a drug addiction counsellor in Santa Barbara. He had finally begun to understand how he had ended up in the drug world. He was tried and sentenced to ten years to be served at Terminal Island federal prison in Los Angeles Harbor.

High interweaves extracts of his prison diary – perceptive, funny and alarming all at once – with the vivid recounting of his outlaw years and the dawning recognition of those things in his life that were worth living for.
From the Hardcover edition.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Brian O’Dea is now gainfully employed as a film and television producer in Toronto, where he lives with his wife and son. He also regularly speaks about his own experiences to young people struggling with addictions.
From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Dawn of an Old ­Day

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA. Eight o’clock in the morning, 1990. I lay in bed, thinking about the hospital. A heroin addict named Danny had come in the night before. I could still feel the pressure of his head on my shoulder as he sobbed his wretched heart out. I’d started to work with him, then left about midnight. I wanted to go back that morning, see how he was doing. Poor ­bastard.

A hard knock on the door. Just from the knock, I knew this day was my ­ day.

I got up, put on the bathrobe my friend Molly had made for me – a black and white thing – and went to open the door. There were venetian blinds on the windows. They were partly closed, but through the slats I could just see the hands and the handguns. I felt this strong desire to disappear. I opened the door. One guy held up a badge with one hand – a Drug Enforcement Agency ­star.

“My name is Gary Annunziata, and I’m with the Drug Enforcement Agency,” he said. “Your name Brian O’Dea?”

“I wish it wasn’t, but it is.”

He nodded almost imperceptibly. “May we come in?”

“You’ve got the gun.”

“That’s right. You got any guns in there, Mr. O’Dea?”


“You sure about that?”

“I’m positive.”

They came ­in.

“You know why we’re here?”

“No, I don’t.”

The other cop, the bad cop, Doug, laughed. “Don’t bullshit us, O’Dea,” he ­said.

“I’m not into bullshitting anymore.”

Doug snorted. “Let’s get this straight, O’Dea. We know what you do. We know you work with drunks and dopers at the hospital. We know you do good. But this ain’t about change or rehabilitation. This is about crushing your life, motherfucker. Now do the right thing.”

Something rumbled deep in my gut. “The rightest thing I can think is to call my lawyer.”

Doug laughed outright. “Listen, asshole, I wouldn’t be calling your lawyer, because he’s fucking next, and so is every other lawyer down at that fucking Main Street law office.”

So that was it, then. My whole law thing was out of the ­bag.

“Brian,” said Gary, the good cop, “we’re going to have a couple of people come down here. Do you mind?”

“No, no. Knock yourself out.”

They got on the radio, and in two minutes there were eight cops in my apartment on the side of the hill in the Riviera district of Santa Barbara. They started to tear my place apart right ­away.
I asked to go to the bathroom. They checked it out and said, yeah, go. I shut the door, and after a minute I had a terribly thorough bowel movement. I flushed and imagined following it down down and out, out of everything that was happening ­here.

There was a knock on the bathroom door. “You still in there, O’Dea?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Just about done, are you?”

“Oh yeah.”
I had a ­glassed-­in pool room out on the deck that overlooked the town. This Gary guy and I went out ­there.

“I guess you must have thought we’d never come,” he said. “I mean, you working in hospitals with dopers and all.”

“Listen,” I explained. “I’ve got nothing to say. Honest to God, I don’t. I’ve got absolutely nothing to say. Please don’t try to trick me into answering questions. But you know what? I’ll just talk to you. We’ll talk about the weather, about sports, about girls, about drinking. We’ll have a game of pool, and we’ll let them do what they need to do. That’ll be fine.”

Gary drank a beer and we shot pool and talked. Weather, sports, girls. The crew was there for a few hours, and they finally found my storage shed receipt. I had a storage shed in downtown Santa Barbara, and they said they had to go down and search it and oh, by the way, they weren’t going to arrest me that day, but I should get ready because they’d be coming back to get me someday soon. There was an indictment coming for me, so I should be ­prepared.

“Fine,” I ­said.

“Oh and by the way,” said Doug, “this woman right here, Sergeant Smith, she’s with the Santa Barbara County Police. Soon as we’re done at your storage shed, she’s going to arrest you and take you to Santa Barbara County Jail.”

“You can’t do that,” I said. “That county jail is known to be one of the worst places on the planet.”
Doug smiled. “It seems, O’Dea, you owe a fine of $500 for driving without a licence.”

“Jeez. I forgot about that. What can I do about it, guys?”

“Talk to Sergeant Smith,” Gary ­suggested.

Sergeant Smith came over. She was a ­nice-­enough-­looking woman, small, ­dark-­haired. I recommended she overlook this ­peccadillo.

“No,” she said. “I got to take you there and fingerprint you and book you, but if you pay the fine then and there, you can leave right away.”

I phoned my girlfriend, Susannah, a textile designer I’d met only recently. She worked nearby. Susannah didn’t know a whole lot about my life. She did know I’d had a ­life.

“Honey, can you come down to my storage shed?”

“Hmm. Well, I suppose so, yes.”

“And would you mind grabbing $500 from the bank for me on your way? Be down there in, say, about five minutes.”

“Okay, Brian,” she said. “I’m working on something, but I’ll meet you there in about forty minutes.”

“Susannah, honey, uh . . . I can’t tell you how important this is. The police are here with me, quite a few of them, and I’m going to my storage shed. Meet me there in five minutes.”

In five minutes, Susannah pulled up. Eight cops and I were standing outside the storage ­shed.

“Oh Jesus,” she said. She handed me the money and got back in her ­car.

They ripped my storage shed apart, and then I hopped in the back of a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s car and went and got booked and paid $500 and got ­out.
From the Hardcover edition.

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