Ad Agency Chief Arrested for Drug Smuggling: That's One Way Out of the Recession

Last Updated May 19, 2010 1:14 PM EDT

A respected Canadian ad executive who was caught allegedly trying to smuggle 135 pounds of marijuana across the border into the U.S. for a $10,000 mule payment has found himself at the center of the debate over whether marijuana should be legalized.

Chris Neary (pictured), the director of Vancouver agency Frank and a former marketing director at Telus, a Canadian phone company with a $30 million ad budget, was arrested April 26 by U.S. authorities after they followed his snowshoe tracks through the woods. He was discovered with a partner, Daryl Fontana, the owner of a Vancouver fitness center. While Neary isn't the most prominent adman in the world, he has been a serious player: He worked at Omnicom (OMC)'s Agency.com in London on accounts such as FoxTV, Endemol, Colgate and Compaq.

Both men needed the money, with Neary telling cops he was "pretty broke right now." Because both men are sympathetic characters -- they're businessmen who give to charity, not gangsters or cartel members -- the comment boards here, here and here have lit up with dozens of people debating whether the continued criminalization of marijuana is worth it.

Predictably, some are noting that the actual activity the pair were engaged in -- carrying a bunch of plants through a park -- is completely harmless. Their opponents say the duo weren't stupid and knew what the law says.

Still, this is a recession story: They were both entrepreneurs whose businesses were clearly left on shaky ground by the recession. And both dreamed up an entrepreneurial way out of it. Except that it was illegal.

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