True Story: My Parents Grew and Sold Marijuana

This is part of our True Stories interview series, in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of Indeana*, her parents and their marijuana business.How would you describe your childhood?
The first word that comes to mind is “dysfunctional.” My mom and dad’s parenting philosophy includes theories like:
“Your brothers [13 and 14 years old] are going to drink anyway, so I might as well buy the booze for them and then at least they aren’t doing it in the woods.”
[Upon finding out that my boyfriend and I were waiting until we got married to have sex, I was 15] “Marriage is just a piece of paper! Why don’t you just go out in the woods and burn some leaves. Have your own ceremony!” (What Mom tries to convince her daughter NOT to be abstinent!?)
“Mom! I missed the bus can you drive me to school?? [3 miles away]” “I’m tired, just skip today.”

I was absent at least one day every week of high school and usually twice a week in middle school and elementary. To this day, I don’t know how to do math problems like 1000 minus 674 because I missed the day of school where they taught us how to “borrow” from numbers with several zeros.

What were your parents’ “day jobs”?
Dad is a self-employed mechanic (and he’s incredibly mechanically intelligent, but he has NO ambition) and Mom bartended, worked in retail, or at a greenhouse. Mostly though we lived off welfare and other government assistance programs. I was in the free lunch program, our heating oil was paid for in the winter, groceries were bought with food stamps, there was even one Christmas where a local charity donated presents to my family. The harvest is in the fall so by Christmas we always had plenty of money. But since it was drug money, no one knew, so we got donations and hand-outs anyway.

How old were you when you realized what was going on?
I always knew that Mom and Dad [and my brothers, aunts, uncles, family friends, visitors…] did drugs, but it wasn’t until about fourth grade that I realized they were growing and selling. I remember stewing in my room thinking “How can I tell Mom that I know? How do I say it?” Finally in fifth grade I was sitting at the table with her after dinner and I just said, “Mom, I know what you and Dad are doing.” Her face was hilarious!

Did they ever talk to you about what they were doing? Or why?
There was never any talk of why. I know it’s because my parents’ lives turned out very differently than they had hoped. Mom got pregnant when she was 17 and rushed into marrying my dad, who has always been abusive. They both lost all vibrancy and just sort of exist now. They have no ambition, no drive.

Growing pot is seasonal (winters off, woo!), relatively easy and very profitable. It’s a career that feeds all their worse qualities, including their addictions. We sometimes talked about what they were doing. What type of soil is best, problems they were having, where their “crops” were, stuff like that. Once Mom saw me cutting pictures out of magazines for a collage. Apparently I was pretty dexterous with the scissors because she offered to pay me to help them trim the plants when they brought in the harvest. (I never did.)

Did they smoke it around you? What did they tell you about using drugs?
Yup, they smoked around me. Constantly. When I got to be 14 or so they even tried passing to me but I just wasn’t into it. I was always the black sheep in my family because I never did drugs, never got in trouble at school, never drank, etc. For my oldest brother’s graduation party, Mom threw him an all-night kegger party with about 150 friends and family. I had a booze-free barbecue with 10 friends. The subject of why they did drugs or what they thought about it never came up. I almost think they didn’t think that deeply about it. They smoked because they had always smoked.

Do you have any idea how much money they made selling pot?
Not a clue. I know it was a lot though because several times a week during the harvest they would bring in six or eight huge garbage bags full of pot plants. They had dozens of crops all over the county, each with at least that much. There were seasons though when the weather wasn’t in their favor or pests were abnormally problematic and they would complain about the harvest being smaller.

Did you ever meet any of the people they sold it to?
Yup. The main guy was my Mom’s “cousin” who I really don’t think was her cousin because no one ever told me whose son he was! He was the “wholesale” buyer who most of the stuff went to. The rest went in small portions here and there to friends and family members.

Did you ever feel like anyone in the family was in danger because of the pot?
YES! When I was a kid I hated letting the dogs in and out at night. Every time I opened the front door and looked out into the woods that faced our house I’d imagine a DEA agent with a sniper rifle aimed at our house. Laying in bed at night my mind would wander towards scenarios of us being raided and me having to take my little brother and hide him in a cupboard so he didn’t get taken away. That constant fear is the biggest reason why I never have and never will do drugs.

How did they do all of this without getting caught? Did they ever get caught? Do they still do it now?
I’m amazed they never got caught. I think the only reason they didn’t is because they worked with family instead of strangers and we lived in a very rural area. If a man fully clad in camo jumps out of a van carrying a backpack and hikes miles into the woods, people in the sticks just think he’s hunting.

But even working with family has risks. Two of my uncles (let’s call them Uncle A and Uncle B) helped out for years and then there was a big feud and Uncle A bailed. Mom and Dad were sure he was gonna turn them in or sabotage their crops so they had to find new locations and destroy everything he knew about. Uncle B stuck around for a few more years after that but then there was another feud and he left too, so the whole process started again. This time there was all kinds of backstabbing and name calling. The Uncles even kidnapped one of our dogs and ditched him miles away from home in the woods. It’s a miracle we found him, he was emaciated and confused. It was awful.

I’m pretty sure Mom and Dad are done with it now. My brothers are older and married and Uncles A and B are gone. They just don’t have enough help anymore. Mom is currently on Disability and they still get all kinds of government assistance. Since it’s just the two of them and my little brother at home it’s apparently enough for them to survive without the pot money.

Do you think any of this affected your feelings towards drugs?
Absolutely! Like I said above, that constant sense of fear makes drugs supremely unappealing to me. Watching my parents use substance abuse as a means to not confront their issues, watching my mom’s mental health deteriorate, watching my dad waste his incredible intelligence, watching my older brother nearly get a divorce because his wife can’t stand him doing pot but he can’t/won’t quit, worrying constantly that my little brother will go down the same path… That’s plenty of motivation for me to stay clean.

Do any of you know people who grow their own pot? Any questions for Indeana?

* not her real name

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

You might also like…

True Story: I Did Teach For America

True Story: I Did Teach For America

What's it like to do Teach For America? Would you ever want to become a classroom teacher in a low-income area ... after five weeks of training? That's exactly what Samantha did! This is her story. Tell us a bit about yourself!  My name is Samantha. I'm from Michigan,...

read more
True Story: I Reinvented Myself at 50

True Story: I Reinvented Myself at 50

What does it mean to reinvent yourself and your life at 50? I know sooooo many people who feel trapped in their lives or career and they're not even 35! I LOVED this interview Judy and I think you will, too. Tell us a bit about yourself! Hi! I'm originally a New...

read more
True Story: I lost my hand, leg, and sight to sepsis

True Story: I lost my hand, leg, and sight to sepsis

How would you navigate life if you lost your leg, hand, and eyesight to a surprise infection ... while you were pregnant? How would you cope with re-learning how to walk, parent, be a partner after something like that? That's exactly what happened to Carol in 2008....

read more


  1. Carly Findlay

    Wow, what an amazing, candid and eye-opening story.
    You never think of the families behind those who grow/make and sell drugs.
    The girl who told the story has turned out amazingly well – kudos to her!

  2. Raquel

    Thank you for this story! My father also grew marijuana, not for consumption, but to fund his heroin addiction, so I know what it's like to grow up around drugs. My mother was similarly permissive but somehow I also ended up the odd one out – never in trouble, did well at school, attending university. Interesting how things turn out.

  3. elizabeth

    This is an interesting story, I have never really thought about the families behind the people that grow weed illegally.

    My brother grows in California for a large medical marijuana dispensary. He makes a really good salary, pays taxes, has health insurance through his company, and is getting ready to buy a house. It's amazing how much his life contrasts the life of Indeana's parents because of some state legislation and regulation.

  4. Elle Sees

    Interesting! I love reading these!

  5. Sarah Von Bargen

    Elizabeth, that's super interesting! Same country, different laws :/

  6. Luinae

    I'm just super impressed that she grow up in a house like this and ended up determined and motivated- without the drugs. Way to go!

  7. Anonymous

    I've got friends that grow their own in a couple of little pots in their house. I think it's a bit of a hipster thing here. I don't really see the problem with it, I'm not that into it, but if they are then that's fine by me.
    I'm a believer in trying everything to find out what I do or don't like.

  8. TurnToTheLeft

    My mom was a drug addict and both my parents were alcoholics – drugs killed my mom and there has been nothing so moving as seeing her deteriorate over so many years – I have rudge towards the phrase "the apple never falls far from the tree" because to me, the common trend of those who grow up around drugs or alcohol is that they strive to succeed and to move away from those substances, and usually turn out pretty good. I get good grades and have no intention of doing any kind of drugs or drinking at any point in life. Reading a story like this gives me confidence that I'm making the right choice, despite what other people are constantly trying to make me think. Thank you for this!

  9. Indeana

    It's so good to hear that there are others with atypical childhoods who overcame them and succeeded. I always thought I was the anomaly! Thanks for all your kindness guys! <3

    (and if anyone has any Q's I'm here, so feel free to ask!)

  10. Anonymous

    Although my mother didn't sell pot I know how it feels like to grow up around it. And still know what it feels like to be surrounded by family members under its influence.

    It seems more common that the children in these families follow down the same path but I too find it so off putting. I don't even enjoy drinking at home as it reminds me of my Mum and her sad habits.

    I'll never understand what causes people like my Mum to rely on drugs. I often feel sad that I don't know who she is and have probably never known her sober.

  11. Anonymous

    I am so proud of "Indeana" for rising above and beyond. I find not enough people take pot seriously where I live (British Columbia), they don't see it as illegal, harmful or addictive as other drugs, but my dad has to smoke about three times a day just to feel normal. I didn't learn to drive until I was in my twenties, because I didn't want to learn in a car that I knew was filled with pot (what if I got pulled over because I was a new driver and they searched the car? What cop believes a 16 year old when they say "It's not mine, it's my 40 year old father"). I completely understand the fear, the worrying about younger brothers getting caught up in it. My dad and his brother used to grow pot in their grandmother's house after she died, which was extremely disrespectful and crushed me when I found out. I have no respect for him. And I've never done drugs because if your dad does it, it really doesn't seem cool, but a friend of mine was in the same situation and I watch him beginning to duplicate every life decision his parents made. You're an inspiration Indeana.

  12. penn

    One of my friends in college had parents who either dealt or grew. They actually did get caught. Because they had little kids, the judge was fairly lenient. I think each parent got somewhere between 5 and 8 years, but they were allowed to serve their terms at separate times so that one of them could take care of their kids.

    My friend was a bit of a stoner, but he was also super reliable and has since turned into a pretty respectable high school teacher. I think he gave up smoking at the end of college.

    Indeana, thanks for sharing your story. Even though my friend experienced something similar, I still forget that drugs touch so many families in so many different ways. I appreciate you sharing your experience.

    One question: since you guys got government assistance, what did your parents do with all the drug money? How did people not notice?

  13. Indeana

    Nearly all our family and friends were druggies too, so the source of the money was no secret to most. Everyone else must have assumed it came from dad's mechanic work. The money went a lot of stupid places: Dad drinks A LOT, mom smokes two packs of cigarettes and buys lotto tickets every day, we had an XBOX and XBOX Live when it was brand new, had satellite TV, and there's always lots of gimmicky dollar store crap lying around. Oh, and we always went NUTS with groceries. My little brother told me last week that even though there are only 3 people in the household they have 13 boxes of cereal and 8 cans of tuna in the cupboard. I can at least say that for mom and dad–they never let us go hungry. In the midst of those luxuries though, we lived in a gross old trailer that was literally falling apart in places and was infested with rats. We "couldn't afford" things like family vacations, dinners out, or the gas to get us kids to our friends' houses. Mom even started charging me gas money to drive me to work when I was 16! Their priorities were definitely skewed in places.

  14. Erin

    Wow, this is SO fascinating–one of my favorite of your interviews so far. Thank you both!

  15. Becca

    I guess I had a completely different experience with this situation, probably a very unusual one. My dad grows pot and apparently has since before I was born but I was basically unaware of it until I was 15. I vaguely remember one time when I was really little that there were strange police in our house once and apparently my dad had gotten caught, but the judge didn't do more than fine him because he had kids and was a respectable business owner in the community. My parents started a bar business when I was two years old and I was always raised around alcohol, but also taught that while alcohol and drugs weren't terrible they could ruin your life, so don't let them take control. I still don't know whether my mom smoked much with my dad, I presume she did at some point and of course she knew that he had it, but it was never something that took over either of their lives. My dad has never asked me to smoke it or help him with anything involving the pot. He has several plants and sells to friends, but doesn't have a business close to the scale you are talking about. I have smoked pot a few times and enjoyed it but have never felt the need to buy it or become addicted. Education and success has always been important for my family so I always did well in school and have a master's degree in paleontology. I guess I have a 'responsible' pot grower for a dad, and I am glad that I never had to deal with pressure to get involved with that world, kudos to Indeana for steering clear of it!

  16. Zia Madeira

    Thanks for your story! It is really nice to know that I am not the only kid who dealt with this kind of stuff and chose a different path.
    I totally understand the anxiety you felt with the DEA. Boarder crossings with my smuggling mom were terrifying, and AK47's are just part of the day… :C

    I appreciate your situation, and I am glad you've shared.

    Thanks to Ms Von also!

  17. Anonymous

    My dad grows it. I hate it. I want it gone. I told him that one day and he said – "what!? you want me to choose between the plant or you?".
    Possibly the worst question to ask your son.

  18. Anonymous

    You guys are way to harsh about Marijuana. Let people do what they want with there lives. Who the heck are you guys to judge another……the OP is not judging her parents for it too harshly even though she was neglected but you make it sound like all stoners are horrible people we are sick and tired of it….you guys act like pot is herion, people smoke pot because its feels good, healthy version of cigs, i'm sure some of you smoke cigs…cannabis has no addictive property. Find one chemical in cannabis that is addictive and talk YOU WONT. We smoke constantly because it feels "nice" to be high all the time. You guys can live your lives miserable working all day and night not living in the moment like us, while we will die happy hippy pot smokers at heart. legalize nature, legalize natural medicine.

  19. Anonymous

    i felt as though i was reading my story, although my parents never dealt and have always worked and i think the stress from that is the reason why. my mum and dad both ran business' and i never understood how they could undertake that responsibility when they themselves were irresponsible. my friends and the rest of our town all looked up to my mum and thought she was great and i never had anyone to tell anything to. time and time i planned running from home and confronting them on how i felt. the only way i could ever do it was through texting them. i tried sabotaging their plants by pouring chemicals in them without my parents realizing but still, the plants grew. i was never popular at school although i did have friends but i thought they'd be cross because i kept a secret from them or judge me for what my parents did! i spent a lot of my childhood reading in my bedroom with the curtains drawn and missed out on a lot. looking back now i wish i had told a friend. i don't think people realize how hard and scary this situation is and the weight you have on your shoulders constantly, like when a friend comes round and you leave them unattended, and you constantly dread them revealing your secret. my parents went out a lot and i was home alone night after night and had to get myself ready for school some mornings because they would get too stoned and drunk to drive home or even be aware they had left me alone. people would smell smoke on me at school and presume i did it myself. being an only child never helped, have a sibling would be someone i could be open and honest with. instead i hid a secret away from my closest friends all my childhood. they all clocked what was happening when i was about 16, and they'd known for a while, they all understood and helped me. i moved out just before my 17th birthday and watched my parents health slowly get worse. it made me feel as though it were my fault, and i was a bad daughter and if i was better, they wouldn't do it. there needs to be a major charity that supports families in such a position, without a an embarrassing rehabilitation center! i love my parents with all my heart and that just makes the situation a whole lot worse…

  20. Anonymous

    I can relate. Around 4th grade, it was when I noticed my dad caring for a bunch of strange plants which a couple of years later I actually found out what it was called because my dad doesn’t give me a straight answer until I was older I guess and I was putting the pieces together. I was ignorant. As his children, we HAVE to help him care for it and move them around and he’d always said that this is the money that’ll help pay our bills and other stuff. It was stressful helping him. He ALWAYS say to us that people who grows marijuana makes thousands of dollars (because of that I believe he thinks he can make that much too if he continues to grow the plants and sell them) BUT even all the years he’s been doing it, we are not rich. He’s not making his so called thousands of dollars. As a 17 year old reflecting on my life, I feel my family life is degraded and dyfunctional because of marijuana. My parents doesn’t abuse drugs but they would on some occations try out “cookies” that has marijuana in it. I remember the one time when I was in 4th grade I was jealous and mad that he was caring more for his plants than looking out for me and my siblings because he kept calling his plants “children” and now that Im older I feel stupid for being jealous. There are times my dad tells us his friend(s) are coming over to talk about the business and there’s people I never met and we became acquainted with my dad’s close partners because they come over to our house so many times. My siblings and I were raised around marijuana and as we grew up, I’ve always wonder what is a normal family? We are taught in school that drugs are bad and I would hear classmates criticising drugs and weeds and how it should be illegal in California but its not (and if only they knew my dad grows them in our house). I never even thought of trying just a bit of marijuana and neither of my siblings (maybe because my dad kept enforcing us that its for medical uses). Im not curious about it because its just there in the house. My classmates and school friends talk smack about marijuana and its in my house. I dont know how to feel about it. I also want to add that my dad says in order to survive in our current society, he hustles for money so techincally he grows marijuana, he’s a dealer, and he gambles. It causes the relationship with my mom upside down and they frequently argue about money, financial situation, and now she complains how my dad doesn’t properly works.

Pin It on Pinterest