thai stick

Legendary Thai Stick Smuggler Dishes on Marijuana Trade

By Oscar Pascual |

You can just walk into a random California dispensary to buy high-quality pot these days, but there was a time when surfers were the state’s main budtenders.

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, beginning his career as a weed pirate straight from dropping out of college.

“Working my way home to America as a seaman aboard a merchant ship in 1967, I stuffed a kilo inside a jar of peanut butter, which I stored in my locker,” said Ritter in an interview with LA Weekly. “I went on to smuggle hash oil and didn’t begin to smuggle pot until about 1972 from Thailand.”

In the book, Ritter, alongside co-author Peter Maguire, give their first-hand account as globetrotting surfers traveling to popular point breaks worldwide, all while transporting illegal weed from Northeast Thailand to America. The story’s film and television rights were recently bought by current surfing superstar Kelly Slater, who plans to create 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 occurred 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 pot smuggling from the late ’60s thru early ’80s, diving into every aspect of the game from personal to political.”

Ritter even 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 really a very clever and artful way of packaging marijuana,” Ritter told LA Weekly. “The Thais already knew how to cull the male plants, allowing the female plants to produce large, flowering buds, which were carefully harvested and trimmed of unwanted leaves. The remaining pure nuggets were then tied to a short length of bamboo, much like a satay skewer, about 5½ to 6 inches long. Twenty such sticks were bundled together in a neat little package. At its best, 100 bundles of Thai sticks weighed about 3½ kilos and when bagged in plastic became the standard unit for smugglers.”

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

“Homegrown marijuana in America 30 years ago was already pretty good,” Ritter told LA Weekly. “Today the finest marijuana in the world is grown here in California, thanks to decades of excellent work by devoted people.”

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