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[Cross-posted from New Books in Terrorism and Organized Crime] Reading Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter‘s book Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade (Columbia Press, 2013) is the most fun I have had doing this podcast. Maguire makes a point during the interview that police officers preferred to arrest marijuana smugglers because they were so laid back and safe to handle. You get the same feeling reading his account of the members of the roaming hippy/surfer community who fund their lifestyle through ‘scams’, that is, smuggling marijuana into Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada. Maguire is a former pro-surfer and he communicates the culture of the surfer and their dedication to their past-time. Drug smuggling has a very utilitarian role. While the surfers smoke drugs and have the connections to buy them; a good smuggling run can fund many years on the international surfing trail. Thus they are not drug smugglers who surf but surfers who take advantage of the profit margin of smuggling.

Reading the book made me think that they were almost outside the scope of the podcast; this is not organised crime but the occasional foray into crime. It is also the story of invincible young men taking on the impossible in an often amateurish manner and succeeding. However, as Maguire explains, the lure of money can change people and some of the people in the story reverse this equation. This is a story of a time that has passed. There was an innocence in the story during the 1960s and 70s that has been overtaken by the hard edge of the international drug trade. This is an important and overlooked story in the history of crime. The book provides an insight into how people can turn to crime in a manner that contradicts the strongly held theories of the life-course criminologists. I hope the book inspires others to study these marginal areas of crime. As you will hear in the interview, I have volunteered to do so myself.

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