Howard Marks: Life and legacy in the cannabis world
Howard Marks Mr. Nice supplied the mafia with millions but is now hailed as an alternative national treasure. Reputational laundering helps the drug economies to grow.
Although the life of Howard Marks was truly remarkable, the best stories come from the individuals who truly knew. His memoir is one of the most fascinating and enthralling personal testimonies, but the sentimental narratives of the people that knew Marks reveal the lighter side of Mr. Nice — something often overshadowed by his promiscuous life as a foreign weed trafficker.
It was just an exceptional life: international drug smuggling, MI6 secret meetings, Drug Enforcement Administration cat and mouse games, and, eventually, a US prison term. During his time in the drug game, Howard Marks, who died on 10 April and will be best known as “Mr. Nice”, one of 43 aliases during his criminal career, pulled off all sorts of madcap schemes and stunts. Yet, perhaps his greatest achievement was his transformation into an alternate national treasure in the popular imagination.
Life and times of Howard Marks
Marks was an educator throughout his early life. He studied physics between 1964 and 1967 at Balliol College, Oxford. It was during this time that cannabis was first introduced to him. He started training as a teacher at St Anne’s College, Oxford, in 1967. He gave up teacher training and continued his education until 1968 at the University of London, then continued further studies until 1969 at Balliol College. He went to the University of Sussex to study the philosophy of science between 1969 and 1970.
He was only selling weed to close friends or acquaintances when Marks first began selling hash. But in 1970, he was convinced to help Graham Plinston deal with drug trafficking on a larger scale. Marks was introduced to Mohammed Durrani during this time, a Pakistani hashish trafficker who offered him the opportunity in London to sell cannabis on a large scale. Mark’s empire of hash trafficking continued to expand, and he trafficked cannabis all over Europe before long.
The early beginings of Mr. Nice
In 1973, the first arrest of Marks by the Dutch police took place. He tried to skip bail and spent the next couple of years hiding from the authorities.
Mark started to import hashish from Nepal, one of the largest hash-producing nations in the world, after returning to the UK in secret. He spent the years between 1975 and 1978 shipping a total of 55,000 pounds of marijuana via John F. Kennedy airport, with the aid of the Yakuza. All the people involved, including the Mafia, the Yakuza, the Brotherhood of Everlasting Love, the Thai army, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, were involved in this activity.
In the late ’70s, Marks escaped a drug-trafficking charge, pleading “not guilty” to trafficking. The jury found him guilty of using counterfeit passports, however, and he was sentenced to two years in prison.
Moreover, Marks’ hash smuggling adventures went on, and finally, in 1990, he was charged with all sorts of drug dealing offenses. Also interested in those charges was his wife at the time (with whom he had three children). He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and a fine of $50,000 was awarded. Marks was given parole for his good behavior as a model inmate in January 1995. In April 1995, he was freed.
After his release from prison, he published his autobiography, Mr. Nice in 1996. It has been translated into several languages. In January 2015, it was announced to the world that Marks had colorectal cancer. He finally succumbed and died of the disease on 10 April 2016 at the age of 70.
And it came to an end
The drug-trafficking industry is one that involves the killing of thousands per year, far from the grand caper that Marks portrayed in his books and talks, and has brought many poor countries to their knees. There must be an end to the laundering of the reputations of those who run it, including Mr. Good.
Marks wasn’t a violent guy, and his cannabis wealth was less destructive than other illicit drugs (and indeed less harmful than many legal ones). Yet his career was not one that harmed nobody. His company included making deals with suppliers of cannabis from the Japanese yakuza, the New York mafia, and Colombia. Corrupt police officers, double-dealing army officers, IRA members, and others, the millions of pounds he funneled towards these and other connections, fed money into organized crime networks around the world, primarily in countries where the state was too poor to avoid being overwhelmed by them.
At the end of the 70s, Marks escaped an accusation of the drug trade, where he pled not to be responsible for the traffic. However, the jury found him guilty and sentenced him to two years in jail.
After his release, Marks’ hash smuggling adventures continued and he was ultimately charged in 1990 with all forms of drug trafficking crimes. He was also involved in these allegations with his wife (with whom he had three children). He has been condemned to 25 years’ imprisonment and fined $50,000. Marks obtained parole as a model inmate in January 1995 in his good conduct. In April 1995, he was released.
Kingdom of Opioid Tale adventures of Mr. Nice
However, when you learn of his passing, these are not the milestones of his undeniably incredible life. They’re the plot. The ones he said were from an appearance of inexhaustibility (some of them are detailed in the Howard Marks Book of Drug Stories). He was a professional and lovely storyteller. He loved a good twist, a good punchline in the plot.
He wrote Mr. Smiley: My Last Pill and Testament, which opened in 1996 with him smuggling MDMA (for personal use) through an airport, after repeatedly saying that he had only ever smuggled cannabis before 2016. At that time, reports had been published about his diagnosis of bowel terminal cancer. Typical of his mood, he would turn his last book’s title into a joke, a confession, and soft scorn of death.