Featured on the cover of the the Santa Barbara Independent weekly newspaper this week is “The Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade: Surfers Turned Smugglers in Thailand and Santa Barbara” by Charles Donelan.   The story provides Donelan’s review of the book, Thai Stick, by Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter as well as excerpts from the book and an interview with Mike Ritter.

Santa Barbara is the backdrop for some of this long forgotten history of the Thai marijuana drug trade.  Ships from the Gulf of Thailand would arrive off the shore of Santa Barbara in the 70’s carrying 10,000+ pounds of of Thai stick, at the time the most potent and most expensive marijuana in the world.  These ships had been loaded by Americans in Thailand, many of whom found a way to support their surfer lifestyle by shipping this valuable commodity overseas.

These surfers and the origins and evolution of their involvement in the Thai drug trade is the subject of Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold History of the Marijuana Trade.  Authors Maguire and Ritter spent over 15 years extensively researching the history and gathering firsthand accounts from the surfers, smugglers, officials and DEA agents involved.

Maguire and Ritter have given voice to an entire generation of people ​— ​including several Santa Barbarans ​— ​who have stayed hidden for fear of prosecution. Now that their stories are being told, these former prisoners of the “cannabis closet” are coming together to acknowledge their shared experience of living outside the law ​— ​or inside actual prisons ​— ​for decades.

Thai Stick tells many stories, some sensational and even heroic, others just stupid and sad, of what it was like when pot was still totally illegal and how the original generation of surfer-scammers who began importing the drug from Southeast Asia gradually ran afoul not only of the law but also of their own and their collaborators’ personal limitations.

Read the full cover story here: The Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade: Surfers Turned Smugglers in Thailand and Santa Barbara