Sunday, August 7, 2011, 5pmm ET.

Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs

Chat with Jason Ryan about his new book. Hosted by Stanford Neill Franklin.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a cadre of freewheeling, Southern pot smugglers lived at the crossroads of Miami Vice and a Jimmy Buffett song. In less than a decade, these irrepressible adventurers unloaded nearly a billion dollars worth of marijuana and hashish through the eastern seaboard’s marshes. Then came their undoing: Operation Jackpot, one of the largest drug investigations ever launched and an opening volley in Ronald Reagan’s War on Drugs.

In Jackpot, author Jason Ryan takes us back to the heady days before drug smuggling was synonymous with deadly gunplay. During this golden age of marijuana trafficking, the country’s most prominent kingpins were a group of wayward and fun-loving Southern gentlemen who forsook college educations to sail drug-laden luxury sailboats across the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean. Les Riley, Barry Foy, and their comrades eschewed violence as much as they loved pleasure, and it was greed, lust, and disaster at sea that ultimately caught up with them, along with the law.

In a cat-and-mouse game played out in exotic locations across the globe, the smugglers sailed through hurricanes, broke out of jail and survived encounters with armed militants in Colombia, Grenada and Lebanon. Based on years of research and interviews with imprisoned and recently released smugglers and the law enforcement agents who tracked them down, Jackpot does for marijuana smuggling what Blow and Snowblind did for the cocaine trade.

Through extensive interviews with kingpins, smugglers, investigators, prosecutors and defense attorneys, as well as research of trials and legal proceedings, news archives, and government records, Jason Ryan, a former staff reporter for South Carolina’s The State newspaper, has created a narrative that details the rise and fall of the gentlemen smugglers. (Globe Pequot Press)

Elliott

Elliott