My Most Wanted Marijuana Mom:
Growing Up in a Smuggling Family
David Michael McNelis
Every child has to grow up and make do with the world he or she is born into. So it was with David Michael McNelis. His mother and members of his family in the late 70s decided to smuggle marijuana into the U.S. at a time when it was considered illegal. David was not part of that decision, but in many ways—some not even apparent to him—he was made to suffer. Still, he sees his life and the lives of his family with kind eyes, and many times points out lessons he learned in observing the generosity and friendships that came about in the many places he lived. That David is able look back and treat the people in his family with such kindness and understanding probably says more about the discerning nature of this young man than about the buying and selling of pot in those tumultuous times.
In a well-written, insightful chronicle of the 80s, David takes us into a life most of us couldn’t share, and probably, if we had a choice, wouldn’t want to share, but children, you know, don’t have that option. His mother, his aunt, and his grandfather paid a price for that decision.
They spent many years in prison and in many ways made things better for the people there. The grandfather taught the High School Equivalency classes in Tallahassee for over two years with numerous graduates. The woman who ran that program gave him a going-away party when he was released; something the warden told her not to ever do again. David’s mother ran a flourishing green house with flowers and vegetables for the prison she was in after she was captured. And the aunt, a kind and generous person, I’m sure, used those talents for anyone around her. She was just 16 when she was pulled into the smuggling business.
It’s a real quandary, when people lose their lives and fortunes for illegalities, like drinking alcohol and smoking pot, only to have those very same activities declared legal years later. I imagine that bootleggers and moonshine makers and their families had similar reactions when alcohol was declared legal in 1933. But there’s no way to get back those lost years or give back the money their innocent families might have spent trying to keep their relatives out of jail or in taking care of the children whose mothers or fathers were in prison. The cost to those children and to David, of course, was and is beyond measure. I’m just glad he’s managed to salvage so much good from that experience.
I know, I know, there are those who would say those people broke the law; they must face the consequences. But in reality, we all pay a price for wanting to control other people’s behavior. It doesn’t work. Fifty percent of the prisoners in our overcrowded prisons are there because of drugs or drug-related crimes. (I’m not going to argue about the effects of overindulgence in pot or alcohol; it’s already well known. But no one is proposing we should put one half of our population in jail for overeating, are they? That’s an addiction, too, you know.)
And what about the children, the Dreamers, (3.6 million according to USA Today) of illegal immigrants who came to the States? Most of the Dreamers are children who come from families who value everyone as an equal in the pursuit of happiness and who value this country as a better place.
People say: Kick them out, they broke the law, let’s build more walls. (Yes, it really worked so well for the Communists during the Cold War in Berlin and right now is working so well in Israel). Do we really need more guns and more military might? Do we really need more aggressive, ugly, spoiled leaders? What happened to “They will know we are Christians by our love.”? Democracy and Love are two very messy and unsafe ideas and yet that is exactly what made America great in the past. If those rowdy Adams boys hadn’t been so rebellious down in Massachusetts, we’d all still be English, standing and pledging allegiance to the Union Jack.
Read The Haj by Leon Uris, if you want to understand the difference between people who value all people as equals. The young boy of the story cannot understand how the Jewish people, who bought the worst land, whose women ran around in shorts and worked side by side with their male counterparts, had electricity and music and dancing at night while his village had one lone electric bulb and the houses were as dark and confining as the long, hot, heavy garb his mother, by religious law, was forced to wear.
Change is coming though: Saudi Arabia just allowed women to have a driver’s license; although one cynical observer said, “Watch out. The worst storms start with a single drop of rain.”
But back to the book:
I was there when David Michael became an Eagle Scout, and I was there when he and his little sister, Melanie, received First Holy Communion. David and my son, Robert, were of best friends, and he helped my son be inducted into the Order of the Arrow in the Boy Scouts. One of my fondest memories is of David and Robert sitting on the bottom bunk they shared, and David reading aloud from a book to Robert.
I am so proud of David for writing this book with such insight and generosity. I wish all children could see their parents and families, with all our faults, with such love.