New Book Details The Pot-Smuggling Hippie Mafia

By Seth Ferranti 06/20/16

In his new book, Richard Stratton recounts his politically motivated, massive pot-smuggling journey.

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New Book Details The Pot-Smuggling Hippie Mafia
via Richard Stratton

A lot of the early marijuana smugglers have become outlaw legends in the pot industry—persecuted for their beliefs that marijuana should be legal, and arrested because they had the audacity to smuggle the drug in huge quantities into the United States at the height of the drug war. With the recent resurgence of weed and all its medicinal properties, their actions can be seen as justified in retrospect.

Smuggler's Blues: A True Story of the Hippie Mafia, by former drug smuggler and ex-con Richard Stratton, is built around a massive smuggling operation in 1982, where Stratton orchestrated the importation of 15,000 pounds of hash from Lebanon to the United States. Stratton wasn’t just a drug dealer, he was “the” drug dealer. A prince of the illicit trade and underground marketplace. 

In the book, Stratton recounts his smuggling journey along the Lebanese-Syrian border overland into Beirut, and finally putting the hash on a Greek ship bound for the U.S. The most amazing thing in regards to this story is that Stratton pulled it off during the Lebanese civil war and barely escaped with his life. He was an OG in the marijuana smuggling world, a pioneer who risked life and limb to bring a desired commodity to America.

“I have always said, if marijuana had not been illegal, I never would have become a criminal,” Stratton tells The Fix. “My primary motivation was political and cultural, not criminal or solely for profit. I wasn't a bank robber, I wasn't into extortion, I wasn't even into smuggling or distributing hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine, even though I had ample opportunity to smuggle and distribute those drugs with a chance of much higher returns. I was an outlaw who broke a very specific set of laws that many people believed were wrong, hypocritical, and far more destructive than the plant itself.”

Stratton’s primary motivation was to keep America high and defy the government’s absurd drug laws, where marijuana smokers did jail time for first-time, nonviolent offenses. Stratton knew the government was lying about pot, trying to demonize it for its own monetary reasons, and in time, his instincts have proved true.

“We were activists. We realized the government was lying about pot, and that led us to disbelieve so much of what they told us about race, about the war in Vietnam, about political assassination, and about the war on drugs,” Stratton tells The Fix. “And, ultimately, as has been proven, we were right. They were lying to the American people about pot, about the war in Vietnam, about race. It's all connected.

“The lie goes back way before that, to America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, and the reefer madness era that was purely politically motivated," Stratton continues. "And we knew they were lying, and how we knew they were lying is because we got high, we smoked pot, and we came to realize that if they had lied to us about something as basic as this plant, marijuana, we couldn't believe anything they were telling us.”

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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