I first was introduced to Brian O’Dea, a polite and distinguished gentleman, when I travelled to Ottawa in December 2014 to meet other cannabis freedom activists and to screen Adam Scorgie’s The Culture High. With a polished demeanour and extensive vocabulary, Brian wouldn’t strike you as the type of person who would ‘move’ copious amounts of cannabis around the world. He is educated, experienced, and skilled in his endeavours. He’s known to be one of smartest criminals the DEA has ever managed to catch; it was only after he’d retired as drug lord that the DEA finally managed to gather enough evidence to convict him.

With a staff of 120 employees, Brian orchestrated Canada’s top drug smuggling ring and sat at the top in the game. Brian was the importer and exporter of marijuana in Colombia, Jamaica, and Bogota among others. There was no drug deal too big. It made good business sense to make large deals; there was a huge demand for it internationally and where there is demand, there will be supply.

He had it completely covered, he had it completely together.

But the feeling of power was slowly being overwhelmed by fear. Brian O’Dea presided over a one hundred million dollar empire and a hardened coke addiction. It was all too convenient to access coke in his line of work, and he adopted it as a method of coping with traumatic childhood abuse. Self-medicating soon became self-abusing and Brian’s life slowly became unmanageable.

When he finally hit bottom he surrendered his coke addiction and gave up his darkest demons. Rehabilitation presented itself and it was then he decided to give back to society by speaking up about his experiences. He found peace in educating society, and realized that it I was possible to get your life back. So he did. He used his life experiences as a man who once was out of control but who regained control as a powerful tool to help others. Paving his own way, with the support of peers, he steered his career towards counselling youths who were at a high risk of stumbling onto their own dark path. His new-found purpose led to his own personal healing. Brian’s new career gave him a new high—one better than coke ever was. Helping others had become his redemption and his constant reminder that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

And then one day reality hit him like a ton of bricks: he was finally charged by the DEA and prosecuted. Brian O’Dea served ten years in federal prison for his crimes and after being released he continued to pursue a clean life. He stayed on track and he wrote a best-seller: in 2007, Brian won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Non-Fiction Crime for his autobiography HIGH—which is now being turned into a feature film.

His story is the very fabric of conviction, perseverance, redemption and hope.

I invite you to read my latest interview ‘A Candid Interview with Brian O’Dea’—which reveals his truths and the absolute enlightenment of his own redemption—early next week. Stay tuned!