Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade

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From Publishers Weekly

Historian Maguire (Law and War) and former drug smuggler Ritter delve into the world of the international marijuana trade of the 1960s and 1970s, tracing its quasi-utopian roots to its suppression during the War on Drugs. Utilizing hundreds of interviews, the authors reveal how early entrepreneurs bringing high-quality marijuana into the United States sincerely believed that these drugs could provide epiphanies otherwise inaccessible; making fortunes by supplying illicit drugs was, for them, a case of doing well while doing good. Such sums of money attracted genuine predators, from ruthless drug lords to brutal pirates. In addition, the hapless transcendental entrepreneurs found themselves faced with an American government marching grimly towards an enforced prohibition on all illegal drugs, hard and soft. The authors are sympathetic to the loftier goals of the soft drug pioneers while acknowledging the realities of uninhibited capitalism; grand ambitions often led to a dank prison cell or an unmarked grave. (Nov.)


A remarkable story, rich in untold details about a vastly lucrative yet little known trade. — Anne McClintock, University of Wisconsin–Madison 

An extraordinary work, at once a participatory anthropology, detached sociology, cultural history, remarkable example of oral history, series of smuggling stories, and many other things to boot. — Anders Stephanson, Columbia University

At once cutting-edge research and candid autobiography, this globe-straddling tale rolls from Southern California surf shops to the beaches of Baja, from Maui to seedy bars in Thailand and the jungles of Laos, and from communist extermination camps in Cambodia to DEA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Along the way, the authors introduce a cast of real-life characters stranger than fiction, who earned their place in the annals of American crime by chasing their own dreams across the high seas and back again, creating a billion-dollar black market industry in the process, sometimes at the cost of their freedom and sometimes at the cost of their lives. — Craig Etcheson, war crimes investigator

From the dank highlands of Siam to the sage-blown point breaks of Alta California, Thai Stick explores the relationship between surf culture and the ‘funny business.’ Maguire―grounded in law, history, and the surfing life―is exactly the right author for this street-level breakdown of smuggling in the 1970s. — Scott Hulet, The Surfer’s Journal

Thai Stick is a brilliant story of the surfers and watermen who pioneered the trans-Pacific pot trade. Adventurous and often hilarious, the book’s narrative blows open one of the last remaining secrets of the hippie era. It also exposes the dark side of the business and its occasionally tragic consequences. Thai Stick is at once an authoritative work of history and an intense, highly entertaining read. — Nicholas Schou, author of The Weed Runners: Travels with the Outlaw Capitalists of America’s Medical Marijuana Trade

Thai Stick is a rare, heart-stopping story about California surfers, hippies and straight out druggies who smuggled potent marijuana from Thailand to the United States and changed the shape of the American drug culture. Based on interviews with the modern day pirates, Thai Stickcaptures the wild aura of the 1970s and 1980s dope trade and the U.S. War on Drugs that tried to stop it. — Elizabeth Becker

A rattling good yarn. — Bradley Winterton ― Taipei Times

About the Author

Peter Maguire is the author of Law and War and Facing Death in Cambodia. He is a historian and former war-crimes investigator whose writings have been published in the International Herald TribuneNew York TimesThe IndependentNewsday, and Boston Globe. He has taught law and war theory at Columbia University and Bard College. 

Mike Ritter dropped out of the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1967 and set off on the Hippie Trail to Afghanistan and India, where he began smuggling hash and marijuana in 1968 and continued for eighteen years. He recently graduated from the University of Hawaii with an undergraduate degree in astronomy and physics.

David Farber is as a professor in the Department of History at Temple University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and is the author or coeditor of several books, including The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism and Taken Hostage: The Iran Hostage Crisis and America’s First Encounter with Radical Islam.

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