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Legendary Thai Stick Smuggler Dishes on Marijuana Trade

By Oscar Pascual |

You can just walk into any California pharmacy these days to buy high-quality weed, but there was a time when surfers were the most important buds in the state.

In fact, Mike Ritter, author of “Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade,” was one of the best of them, starting his career as a weed pirate right after he dropped out of college.

“While working my way home to America as a seaman on a merchant marine in 1967, I put a kilo in a jar of peanut butter, which I kept in my locker,” Ritter said in an interview with LA Weekly. “I continued smuggling hash oil and only started smuggling weed from Thailand in 1972.”

In the book, Ritter, along with co-author Peter Maguire, give their first-hand account of world-travelling surfers who travel to popular point-breaks around the world, while transporting illicit weed from northeast Thailand to America. The film and television rights to the story were recently bought by current surfer Kelly Slater, who plans to make a documentary film and television series based on the duo’s exploits.

“This is a history they certainly don’t teach you in school, but an important and significant cultural phenomenon that happened mostly undocumented,” Slater posted on Instagram. “It took the professional historian and former smuggler 15 years to complete, and it is based on thousands of hours of interviews. They document everything you didn’t know about marijuana smuggling from the late ’60s to early ’80s, delving into every aspect of the game, from personal to political.”

Ritter goes so far as to explain what a Thai stick actually is, as the term is now commonly used to describe a blunt dipped in hash oil.

“A Thai stick was a really clever and artful way to package marijuana,” Ritter said LA Weekly. “The Thai already knew how to cull the male plants, allowing the female plants to produce large, flowering buds, which were carefully harvested and cleaned of unwanted leaves. The remaining pure nuggets were then tied to a short length of bamboo, much like a skewer, about 5½ to 6 inches long. Twenty such sticks were bundled together in a neat little package. At best, 100 bundles of Thai sticks weighed about 3.5 pounds and became the standard unit for smugglers in plastic bags.

Despite working closely with the underground Thai stick trade, Ritter says the old stuff just isn’t as good as today’s California flowers.

“Homegrown marijuana in America was pretty good 30 years ago,” Ritter said LA Weekly. “Today, the best marijuana in the world is grown right here in California, thanks to decades of outstanding work by dedicated people.”

Photo credit: Instagramcelebs.net

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