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

Author(s): Peter Maguire


Thailand's capital, Krungtep, known as Bangkok to Westerners and "the City of Angels" to Thais, has been home to smugglers and adventurers since the late eighteenth century. During the 1970s, it became a modern Casablanca to a new generation of treasure seekers: from surfers looking to finance their endless summers to wide-eyed hippie true believers and lethal marauders leftover from the Vietnam War. Moving a shipment of Thai sticks from northeast Thailand farms to American consumers meant navigating one of the most complex smuggling channels in the history of the drug trade. Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter are the first historians to document this underground industry, the only record of its existence rooted in the fading memories of its elusive participants. Conducting hundreds of interviews with smugglers and law enforcement agents, the authors recount the buy, the delivery, the voyage home, and the product offload. They capture the eccentric personalities who transformed the Thai marijuana trade from a GI cottage industry into one of the world's most lucrative commodities, unraveling a rare history from the smugglers' perspective.


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Thai Stick is a remarkable story, rich in untold details about a vastly lucrative yet little known trade. -- Anne McClintock, Simone de Beauvoir Professor in English and Women and Gender Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison An extraordinary work, being at once an participatory anthropology, a detached sociology, a cultural history, a remarkable example of oral history, a series of smuggling stories, and many other things to boot. -- Anders Stephanson, Andrew and Virginia Rudd Family Foundation Professor of History, Columbia University For millions of American baby boomers, mere mention of the words "Thai Stick" conjures potent memories of a magical time, of days and nights that were as a dreamscape. And those words also evoke questions. Where did that stuff come from? How did it get here? Why was it so wickedly devastating? What happened to it? Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter answer those questions and much more in this rollicking story of swashbuckling surf punks gone wild. At once cutting-edge research and candid autobiography, the authors unravel the heretofore hidden history of the trans-Pacific cannabis trade in a way that only those who were there possibly could. This globe straddling tale rolls from Southern California surf shops to the beaches of Baja, from Maui to seedy bars in Thailand and on into the jungles of Laos, and from communist extermination camps in Cambodia back to DEA Headquarters in Washington. Along the way, we are introduced to a cast of real-life characters who are stranger than fiction, and 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

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 Tribune, New York Times, The Independent, Newsday, 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 at 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.

Foreword by David FarberIntroductionMaps1. Surfers2. The Hippie Trail3. Kuta Beach4. Thai Sticks5. Pattaya Beach Ground Zero6. The Great Circle Route and the Sea of Grass7. The Gold Rush8. Pirates and Perils9. Multitons and Mother Ships10. The DEA Gains Ground11. Confidential InformantConclusionNotesBibliographyIndex

General Fields

  • : 9780231161343
  • : Columbia University Press
  • : Columbia University Press
  • : September 2013
  • : 229mm X 152mm
  • : United States
  • : October 2013
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Peter Maguire
  • : Hardback
  • : 363.4509593
  • : 288
  • : 29 black & white illustrations, 7 maps