“He introduced me to the very best offload situation imaginable for a pot smuggler, a fishing company in Newfoundland with a complete dry dock facility, everything you would need to make it look like you were a legitimate business,” he says.
“We used that as a beard to smuggle the pot. There were 110 guys working in our operation and all of them knew the real deal. It only came apart right at the end. We got away with it till then. But I ended up with too much money and not enough brains and back hooked on coke again.”
When he got sober, O’Dea went to work as a volunteer in a drug rehabilitation center, where he counseled addicts daily for two years. But then the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) showed up and arrested him for conspiracy to import more than 100 kilos of drugs.
Says O’Dea, laughing, “I got 10 years. What a great gift that was. It was one of my life’s greatest gifts outside of my beautiful family.
“It reinforced my understanding that no matter what had happened in my life I could still remain a reasonable and decent human being, which was really important to help me make it through the rest of my life. It also gave me the time to write my book, and develop a relationship with my parents.
“I finally got to know them, and they got to know me. It wouldn’t have happened without all this.”
It’s an unlikely happy ending to a life that seemed headed for tragedy. And in the process O’Dea, who now lives in Toronto with his wife and son, has learned about drugs, having spent years taking them and transporting them. He’s forthright about how to combat them now.
“Legalize them,” he says. “We’ve thrown a trillion dollars into the war on drugs that hasn’t worked. In fact it’s only gotten worse.
“We are giving criminal gangs the run of the neighborhoods in the U.S. and Mexico. Drugs are their only currency. If we take away their currency we’ll stop the gangland shootings in the U.S. and Mexico. Alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition -- same problem, same solution.”
“High”, by Brian O’Dea is published by Random House.