High: Confessions of a Pot Smuggler


360 pages
ISBN 0-679-31278-1
DDC 364.1'77'0972





Reviewed by Robin Chamberlain

Robin Chamberlain is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University.


High is a book that delivers exactly what it promises, but nothing more.
To be fair, it promises quite a lot. O’Dea’s memoir of his life as a
marijuana trafficker, cocaine addict, 10-year prison inmate, and,
finally, reformed and redeemed man certainly makes for an interesting
story, and O’Dea tells it with refreshing honesty that often casts him
in an unflattering light.

The book weaves back and forth between the author’s prison diary and
his reminiscences of his youth and years as a criminal. Although O’Dea
tells us about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child, he resists the
temptation to blame his criminal activities on this trauma, although the
reader can surmise that it likely contributed to his drug
experimentation and subsequent addiction. He began using and selling
drugs in his late teens, eventually becoming one of the heads of a
multinational drug-smuggling ring. Ironically, it was only after he had
abandoned this lifestyle and was working as a drug-addiction counsellor
that he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in an American prison.

After his release, O’Dea, needing to support his family, ran a candid
newspaper ad seeking employment, in which he outlined his qualifications
based on his criminal experience, jail time, and work as a counsellor.
This ad was seized upon by the media and sparked international interest.
O’Dea’s candour and humility are probably the best part of this
book, which one wishes had been written more evocatively. O’Dea’s
writing lacks a voice, and while this does not make one doubt his
account of events, it does make it difficult to become engrossed in what
could have been a riveting story.


O'Dea, Brian., “High: Confessions of a Pot Smuggler,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16000.