Q&A with Jay Carter Brown, author of Smuggler’s Blues
Why did you write this book?
I wrote Smuggler’s Blues because of the gangs, drugs and violence that can currently be found in the streets of every major city in North America.
Were you in a gang?
I grew up in the West End of Montreal in a middle class neighborhood. I didn’t get involved in gangs until my early weed smuggling ventures when I met a gangster named Irving. We started off in a partnership, which then grew to include many others in what could be called a gang.
How did you start in the marijuana importing business?
Some of my workmates and old schoolmates began getting together on various weed scams. I had one friend who worked with me at a printing firm. He figured out how to beat the baggage check system at the Toronto airport and then he enlisted me and some of our mutual friends to smuggle some weed back into Canada in suitcases. It was a very profitable scam. Later on, the weed business grew to include major organized crime figures.
Why did you first get involved with gangs and drugs?
Montreal is a hash city. If I didn’t bring in weed, there wouldn’t have been any. I brought weed to Montreal for me to smoke, but also to sell. The other reason was the excitement and the challenge of smuggling large loads of weed past Canada Customs. It was like a game. The icing on the cake was the money.
How much money did you make?
Lots. But just like in a real business, you have to offset your losses against your gains before you make a final tally. If you subtract my losses from my gains, I could probably have made as much money over my lifetime working legit jobs as I did smuggling weed. Smuggling scams come and go and on occasion you make big money. By comparison, a straight job pays you a smaller amount of money but it comes every day of every year of your working life. Over a lifetime a straight job can be worth millions.
What do you think should be done about gangs and violence?
The legalization of drugs would help, because illegal drugs have created an underground economy and an underground society. The drug trade is completely out of control. There is no stopping it.
Do you want hard drugs to be legalized?
Yes, although I have no personal interest in using hard drugs. I have had my share of experimentation like most people, but I no longer use any drugs, except marijuana — which is an herb, not a drug.
What can we do about gangs other than legalizing drugs?
All the police can do is harass and search known gang members for guns and drugs and check them for other violations. Let the gang bangers realize that once they are on the radar, they can’t safely carry guns to work.
Why do young people join gangs?
I think younger kids join gangs out of fear or for protection. Bullying in the schoolyard is the start of it. Some kids would rather join their tormentors than fight them. Older kids and young adults tend to join gangs more for financial profit.
What advice would you give someone in a gang today who wants to get out?
Move. That’s the only way I know to escape the gang life once you’re in it. Move far away and lose the phone numbers of your gang friends.
How would you keep a young person from becoming involved in gangs?
I would suggest a private school, if possible. If not a private school, choose a school that has a military or religious overtone. Pick any school that is not in the mainstream. Involve your children in sports, theater, music, clubs and groups that give a feeling of belonging.
You were pretty successful smuggling drugs. Don’t you think this might send the message to young people that a life of crime can be lucrative?
Even though I rose to the very pinnacle of success and did not suffer death or imprisonment, Smuggler’s Blues shows that the drug smuggling business is not a place where anyone wants to be. Young people who envy their friends in gangs see only the cars, the cash and the bling and have no idea what they are getting into. Gangs and crime are a dead end and certainly not a career choice. Smuggler’s Blues makes it very clear that it’s foolish for anyone to think they can enjoy life in a world that exists without consequences or the rule of law.
Contact: Sarah Dunn, Publicist