Smuggler's Blues: The Saga of a Marijuana Importer.


288 pages
ISBN 978-1-55022-783-3
DDC 364.1'77092





Reviewed by Geoff Hamilton

Geoff Hamilton is a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of
British Columbia.


This fiction/non-fiction hybrid tells the story of “Brown’s” career as a drug smuggler, which primarily involved importing marijuana from Jamaica into Canada over several decades. All names in the text (and, one presumes, a number of other details) have been changed for legal reasons, the author tells us, but what is related is said to be based closely on actual events. Though dates are rarely specified, Brown’s smuggling career seems to span from the early 1970s into the 1990s, and it covers the transition of the Canadian marijuana trade from its early days, when the majority of participants were loosely organized and sometimes very idealistic about their efforts to bring a forbidden product to the marketplace, to the contemporary dominance of highly sophisticated—and violent—organized crime networks. The picaresque narrative details a series of hazardous deals perpetrated by the author that yielded huge profits and made possible a luxurious lifestyle, as well as deals gone bad that saw him narrowly escape being killed by former partners and sentenced to long prison terms.


Brown provides a reasonably thorough report on the inner workings of drug importation here, and is credible and engaging as a raconteur of the risky business of drug dealing. As a social history of an important and enduring subculture and its battles with law enforcement, Brown’s saga proffers some significant insights, and is particularly effective in describing the interpersonal dynamics of importation schemes. Where Brown’s writing is a little weak, however, is in its account of the moral lessons allegedly gleaned from his illicit career—the gist of which is that friendships formed with fellow criminals tend to be short-lived and superficial, and that crime does not, in fact, pay very well in the end.


Brown, Jay Carter., “Smuggler's Blues: The Saga of a Marijuana Importer.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,