Howard Marks was an unlikely candidate for a drug kingpin. But with operations in far-flung locales like Singapore, the the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan, it could be said the sun never set on his empire.
Marks passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer. He was 70.
Before launching on a career which would make him one of the most successful marijuana smugglers in history, the affable Brit studied physics at England’s storied Oxford university. And unlike some of his contemporaries—see George Jung’s 2001 biopic Blow—he stuck to marijuana and hashish, never crossing over in to the darker world of cocaine and heroin.
In the famously bare-knuckle business, his friendly demeanor earned him an unironic nickname, and his exploits would be chronicled on the the big screen in Mr. Nice.
For years, Marks demonstrated a Houdini-like ability to slip through authorities’ fingers, which made him somewhat of a celebrity among fans of marijuana. In perhaps his most famous ruse, he successfully argued an English court that he should be released because he was running drugs as a deep-cover operative of MI6—the agency which employs the fictional James Bond.
But authorities managed to catch up with Marks, and he was eventually sentenced to 25 years at an American federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Fortunately, he wound up serving just seven years of the term before being shipped home.
Mark’s retirement could hardly be considered quiet.
His biography, Mr. Nice, and the movie of the same name—along with a run for Parliament—kept him in the public eye. And he never stopped advocating to legalize marijuana. But for what it’s worth, Marks managed to spend his golden years on the right side of the law, and his life should serve as an inspiration for everyone working toward more sensible drug policies.
[ via The New York Times ]