Having completed a ten-year sentence for importing seventy-five tons of marijuana into the United States, Brian O’Dea placed a classified ad headed “Former Marijuana Smuggler” in the Employment Wanted section of a newspaper–a typical act for a resilient and impudent man. Among the advertiser’s references was the U.S. district attorney who was responsible for his arrest in 1990.
The O’Dea family is well known in the Canadian province of Newfoundland, where Brian’s father owned the local brewery before going into politics. But the family’s prominence could not protect their middle son. Abused as a child by his local priest, Brian turned to using and selling drugs for the escape and excitement they offered. By the early 1980s, he was operating a $100 million a year, 120-man business, and had developed a terrifying cocaine addiction. Under increasing threat from the DEA in 1986, he quit the trade–and the drugs–and began working with recovering addicts in Santa Barbara. Despite his life change, the authorities caught up with him years later and Brian was arrested, tried, and sentenced to ten years at Terminal Island Federal Penitentiary in Los Angeles Harbor.
A born storyteller, Brian O’Dea candidly recounts his incredible experiences in the streets of Bogotá with a false-bottom suitcase lined with cocaine, to the engine compartment of an old DC-6 whose engines were failing over the Pacific, to the cell blocks overcrowded with small-time dealers who had fallen victim to the justice system’s perverse bureaucracy of drug sentencing. Weaving together extracts from his prison diary with the vivid recounting of his outlaw years and the dawning recognition of those things in his life that were worth living for, High tells the remarkable story of a remarkable man in the late-1980s drug business.
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. High won the 2007 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Non-Fiction Crime and it is currently being adapted into a feature film.
There will be a Q&A period after the talk.
Copies of 'High: Confessions of a Pot Smuggler' will be available for purchase. Have Brian O'Dea sign your copy!