5 Things Breaking Bad Left Out About Having a Drug Lord Dad
There's a real good chance that 50 years from now, our attitude toward marijuana will seem quaint (or, you know, tragic). Smoking weed has become so mainstream that we don't even laugh when somebody does it in a Seth Rogen movie, but people are absolutely still going to jail for growing the stuff.
We talked to Andrew Hass, whose life was derailed when his dad was caught growing thousands of plants worth of pot back in 1998, when Hass was still a teenager. He told us ...
Lying Becomes Your Part-Time Job
My dad did stunts when he was younger, and he broke a bunch of bones doing so -- much like Harrison Ford. Also like Harrison Ford, he started smoking pot because it helped with his pain. However, unlike Harrison Ford, my dad was poor and couldn't afford to keep throwing down coin for the sweet, sweet cheeba. So he made the practical decision to start growing his own. Pretty soon, he had filled an entire house with thousands upon thousands of plants. Then he filled up another house. And another!
If we're being honest, that is entirely too much weed for one person, but I was just 16 at the time, so I wasn't exactly privy to the specifics of his illegal business. I'm sure in his mind, there was a logical escalation from "growing pot for personal use" to "BECOMING WEED LORD OF ALL CALIFORNIA," but I couldn't tell you what it was. The two immediate impacts this had on my life were that I always had awesome weed, and that I had to lie, constantly, to everyone. Somebody would ask me what my dad did for a living, and I'd mutter, "Oh, he's doing movie stuff."
"What movie stuff?"
"Just ... movie stuff." (I never claimed to be a good liar.)
It was a harder secret to keep from my friends, because they were smoking the stuff with me. They'd ask, "Who do you get your weed from? This is incredible," to which I'd respond: "I can't say, but I can get you some."
It's a suspicious answer, but when you're hooking your teenage friends up with spectacular weed, they aren't too eager to suddenly transform into investigative journalists. That said, it became harder and harder to cover up -- there were some days when I'd be getting home from school, with friends on their way over, only to discover that the living room was full of Hefty garbage bags overflowing with weed. I'd have to run out into the front yard and try to catch my friends before they got too close to the house and offer up a last-minute change of plans, such as "Hey, let's go skateboarding!" or "Three burglars broke in and shit on the carpet, let's hang out somewhere else." Eventually I just stopped having friends over.
To be clear, I wasn't invited to sit in on my dad's corporate planning sessions or anything -- I just had to lie about the occasional living room full of weed. Otherwise, it was the life of a normal middle-class kid in California, until the cops came down on us. We never saw it coming. The night before the bust, I was staying at my buddy Mike's house. I called my house the next morning, around 8 o'clock, to check in with my dad, and some random person answered the phone and asked me who I was.
"Well this is Andy; where's my dad?"
"Well, uh, I'm a friend of your dad's ..."
I knew my dad's friends, and I also knew that some sketchy rando picking up my drug-dealing father's phone was a definite warning sign that I probably shouldn't give this guy my current whereabouts. So I told him, "Bullshit. Put my dad on or I'm hanging up." In response, the guy said, "Let me get my supervisor." He actually said that, to me, while answering my dad's phone in our house. The supervisor told me, "Son, I'm so-and-so with the DEA. We have your dad in custody, and you need to come home."
I still wasn't convinced. For all I knew this was some murdering rival cartel trying to lure me into an ambush of chainsaws and exotic animals. I said, "If you don't put my dad on, I'm gone, and you'll never find me." So he put my dad on, and Dad said "Yeah, you should probably come home."
If Your Parents Are Criminals, the Cops Will Spy on You, Too
My buddy's dad gave me a ride home. When we pulled up, there were DEA agents sitting in my driveway. They patted me down, presumably in case I was planning on whipping out a secret personal arsenal to bust my dad out of there and make our escape in a nearby helicopter and/or cigarette boat. Once I got inside, I was treated to even more DEA agents, going through all our possessions with the practiced delicacy you'd expect from a team of federal agents.
When one of the DEA guys told us that they'd been watching us for days, it really freaked me out. Keep in mind, this was before we were all used to being spied on by both the government and every single service on the Internet. They even had a tracking device under my old, beat-up jeep, in case Dad needed to use my car. The cops had been tracking my car. Think of how bad you felt that time you forgot to clear your search history and Mom and Dad found it, or when your brother or sister or grandmother or whomever snuck into your room and read your diary. Now imagine it was the federal government. I somehow missed the "million-dollar rooftop bikini parties" stage of being a drug kingpin and went straight to the "feds going through your trash and following you on dates" stage.
Our phones had been tapped, too. You probably have the luxury of forgetting all the dumbass phone calls you made when you were a teenager, but all of mine were recorded. Transcripts of them even got read aloud during the eventual court case. It was made to seem incriminating, because my friends and I would invariably talk about pot, but there were also official court documents transcribing my fumbling teenage conversations with girls. I'd rather stand up in front of my high school math class with a thousand painfully visible erections than suffer through that again.
It's Hard Not to Become an Accomplice
As soon as my dad and I got a second to talk in relative privacy, he whispered to me, "You know where I hide the cash. Fill your backpack up, and get the fuck out of here." He also told me where he'd hidden a sheet of paper with names, numbers, and other blazingly incriminating information he didn't want the cops to find. I realize in retrospect that this is the precise reason why the cops didn't want us to talk to each other in privacy.
So I told the DEA agents that I had to take a leak, and since I was both a kid and currently not a suspect, no one followed me into the bathroom, where I successfully swiped the paper my dad had told me to find. A little later, they allowed me to pack up a few of my things before they booted me out of the house. So I went into our guest room, which looked almost unused and hadn't been combed over yet, and filled my backpack with about $15,000 in cash. They'd searched me when I arrived, but for whatever reason no one thought to check me on my way out of the drug-dealing pot fortress overflowing with evidence.
The cops questioned me some after that, but I didn't really have much insider information about my dad's operation (as you already know). I pretty much just stuck with smart-ass teen responses, not so much because I was some brilliantly tight-lipped criminal mastermind but because I was a smart-ass teen. The cops didn't even complain when I never turned in my witness' statement for the trial. They either realized how little I had to do with the business or they were just tired of talking to me.
In other words ...
The Police Have No Idea What to Do With You
Now, I obviously knew that my dad was a pot baron of some renown, but because I was a minor with no critical role in the operation (and because they were already courting enough bad press by busting a pot dealer in California, where public opinion was already turning), the cops didn't arrest or detain me. However, I was 16, so they kind of left it up to me to figure out where the hell I was going to live while my dad was in jail. No social workers ever came to talk to me or anything -- I just went home with the same friend's family who'd dropped me off that day. Age 16 was apparently too young to arrest, but too old for them to give a shit about my well-being.
My dad had a girlfriend, and she actually cared. So she took some of the cash I'd smuggled out and bought a used sailboat. Renting a berth in Marina del Rey was cheap back then, so it only cost a couple hundred a month for me to live on my own in my own place. She also drove me back and forth to school while I was working on my GED. I stayed off the cops' radar pretty much the whole time, living on a sailboat with my dad's drug money.
Part of it might have been the fact that this was a federal case. The medical marijuana movement was just starting to pick up steam then, and I don't think the local police wanted much to do with this bust. That was probably a wise decision, because the guy who financed my dad was Peter McWilliams, a major medical marijuana advocate who died in horrific pain from his now-untreated illness shortly thereafter. It was a 6,000-plant bust for the DEA, but the tragedy of Pete's death pissed Californians off enough to raise a lot of support for medical pot laws.
Anyway, the DEA guys had their plants and (some) of their money, but they had no experience dealing with kids my age. So they just sort of shuffled me off to the side and didn't ask too many questions about where I went after the bust. In truth, we were both glad to be rid of each other.
Being on Your Own Gets Old Fast
At the time, I milked my sudden independence for all it was worth. I got a job making minimum wage at the Gap and bid farewell to "school" and "teachers" to live the carefree life of a child on a shitty boat making poverty wages. It was a lot of fun, until the reality of my situation finally sunk in -- I was desperately close to adulthood, and there's nothing romantic about an adult living alone on a shitty boat. That's the beginning of an episode of Intervention.
But I didn't want to go back to my old school. On the few days I had gone back, before my dad's trial, people would constantly come up to me and ask me to confirm or deny some of the crazy stories they'd heard about my dad and I. Someone had heard I'd gone to South Africa, some people said I'd joined the military, and there were probably some strong rumors that I was Keyser Soze. Both the police and my dad's lawyer told me I wasn't supposed to say anything about the case, so no one knew what was really going on with me. I had to struggle to make things up so I wouldn't have to talk about it, to the point that it was clear I was just pulling things out of my ass.
So after about eight months of living on my own, I moved up to Washington to live with an aunt and uncle, because nobody knew my name there. My dad wound up spending two years in prison, and when he got out, he got sent right back in for cooking GHB, so he clearly learned his lesson. That was pretty much the final nail in the coffin for our relationship; I haven't talked to him much since then.
The whole ordeal ruined my relationship with the police, as well. I get that they were just doing their job, but I still resent the peeping motherfuckers for spying on me. Even when I know it's a bad idea, I can't stop myself from being an asshole to cops -- when I get pulled over for speeding, I wind up mouthing off for no reason (yes, I'm that guy). Also, it's kind of impossible for me to have any kind of respect for the DEA after sneaking a shitload of money out of my dad's pot kingdom right in front of them. I have never stopped being paranoid, and I've never stopped looking over my shoulder. You know when you see a car follow you for two or three turns and get nervous that it might be tailing you, so you start freaking out and taking evasive maneuvers?
Robert Evans is the editorial manager of Cracked, and runs the personal experience team. He has a Twitter you can follow.
For more insider perspectives, check out 7 Adventures of the World's Biggest Pot Smuggler and 6 Unexpected Things I Learned From Being a Drug Dealer.
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