Pubdate: Fri, 15 Apr 2016
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Post Company
Author: Emily Langer

Howard Marks, 70


Howard Marks, a Welsh-born, Oxford-trained drug smuggler who for 
years ran a globe-spanning marijuana ring, enraging officials and 
entertaining the public on both sides of the Atlantic as a 
countercultural scofflaw, died April 10. He was 70.

Mr. Marks revealed last year that he had inoperable bowel cancer, and 
his death was announced by Pan Macmillan, the publisher of his most 
recent book, "Mr. Smiley: My Last Pill and Testament "(2015). Other 
details were not immediately available.

Once described as "sounding like Richard Burton and looking like a 
Rolling Stone," Mr. Marks achieved celebrity and notoriety in a life 
that took him from a mining village to the University of Oxford, to 
prison, and finally to bestsellerdom with the release of his memoir 
"Mr. Nice" (1996).

"He was a product of the 1960s, a proletarian boy who shot into the 
heart of the British establishment and proceeded to laugh at it," 
David Leigh, a former investigations editor at the London Guardian 
and a biographer of Mr. Marks, said in an interview. "He had this 
kind of anarchic spirit and this beguiling smile and this 
recklessness that appealed to a lot of people. It makes some people 
in Britain very indignant when you say that."

An official with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration labeled Mr. 
Marks the "Marco Polo of the dope world" - others dubbed him "Narco 
Polo" - and he served seven years at a federal penitentiary after 
pleading guilty to racketeering charges in a Florida court in 1990.

According to the indictment, Mr. Marks and his associates had 
smuggled thousands of tons of marijuana and hashish into the United 
States and Canada through a criminal organization that had operated 
since 1970, reaching into Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, 
Singapore, Australia, West Germany, the Philippines, Thailand, 
Pakistan and Hong Kong.

Years earlier, he was acquitted on drug charges in England after 
claiming he was in the service of the British intelligence agency MI 
6 and Mexican authorities pursuing drug dealers. At least once during 
the proceedings, his lawyer reportedly struggled to muffle his own laughter.

The courtroom coup helped burnish Mr. Marks's image in some circles 
as a folk hero, a reputation he established in the 1970s after he was 
arrested in Amsterdam and went on the lam. He lived under a reported 
43 aliases, among them "Donald Nice." Britons delighted in Howard 
Marks sightings.

"I was a fugitive for six-and-a-half years, and I smuggled as much 
cannabis as I could," he once boasted, according to his obituary in 
the Guardian. "I felt that this was my destiny, this was my karma. I 
suppose I felt like a prizefighter. One day one's going to get 
knocked out on the canvas. You have to carry on until you're beaten."

By his account, Mr. Marks availed himself abundantly of the products 
he sold: He claimed that he had smoked hashish every day for 22 
years, according to the Daily Telegraph. He did not engage in the 
traffic of harder drugs, a decision attributed to his grief over the 
loss of Joshua Macmillan, a friend at Oxford and grandson of former 
British prime minister Harold Macmillan who died after becoming 
addicted to heroin and cocaine.

After his release from U.S. prison, Mr. Marks published his 
autobiography - the title, "Mr. Nice," referred to his alias - which 
became a juggernaut around the world. He detailed the trade that he 
said touched on the CIA, the Irish Republican Army and the mafia.

Reviewing the volume in the London Independent, the British writer 
Duncan Fallowell observed that Mr. Marks's memoir, which became a 
movie starring Rhys Ifans, existed in "a conspiratorial society, that 
is, in the realm of flexi-truth."

"In such societies nobody knows what's really going on most of the 
time, and very often the more you investigate, the less certain you 
become," Fallowell wrote. "In other words, Mr. Marks's version is as 
true as anyone else's."

Mr. Marks wrote several other books, among them a sequel to his 
memoir, "Senor Nice: Straight Life From Wales to South America," and 
a novel. He also appeared in a one-man show and wrote for British 
newspapers, advocating greater acceptance of marijuana.

"Of course the legalizing of marijuana for medical purposes is to be 
welcomed," he told the Observer after his cancer was diagnosed, "but 
personally I never wanted to have to wait until I had cancer before I 
could legally smoke."

Dennis Howard Marks was born in KenfigHill, a working-class-community 
in South Wales, on Aug. 13, 1945. His father was a merchant sailor, 
and his mother was a teacher.

A scholarship allowed Mr. Marks to study physics at Balliol College, 
where he graduated in 1967, and where he learned that he could make 
money selling cannabis. He ran a boutique, Annabelinda, which 
ostensibly sold clothing but in fact peddled marijuana. He said that 
he came into contact with smugglers, and "from there I became a 
smuggler myself."

His marriages to Ilze Kadegis and to Judy Lane, who was imprisoned 
for a period with Mr. Marks, ended in divorce. His survivors, 
according to the Guardian, include three children from his second 
marriage, Amber, Francesca and Patrick, and a daughter, Myfanwy, from 
an earlier relationship with Rosie Lewis.

Most of Mr. Marks's considerable wealth was consumed by his expensive 
tastes and legal fees or confiscated by authorities. In the late 
1990s, with his extensive background in the relevant subject matter, 
he applied for the position of drug czar under Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"I am sorry to inform you that we were unable to include you in the 
candidates invited for interview," he was told in a reply. "I hope 
that your disappointment will not prevent you from applying for other 
positions we may advertise in the future ."
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