Pubdate: Sun, 17 Apr 2016
Source: Mail on Sunday, The (UK)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Peter Hitchens


HOW on earth did I end up on friendly terms with Howard Marks, the 
drug smuggler and pro-cannabis propagandist who died last week? Yet I 
did. You might think we would loathe each other. He stood for almost 
everything I am against. But not quite. He was a fierce and 
instinctive defender of free speech, a rare and precious quality.

I learned this one long-ago evening in Blackpool, when a squawking 
rabble of ignorant, intolerant students succeeded in having me driven 
off the stage at a debate.

As a snivelling official of the National Union of Students switched 
off my microphone and ordered me from the room, Howard got up, put 
his arm around my shoulder and said quietly and firmly: ' If he's 
going, I'm going too.' He walked by my side as we left through a knot 
of hissing, hostile zealots.

I vowed never to forget it, and I never have. He loathed my opinions, 
and I loathed his, but we both knew there was something higher and 
better than that - the freedom to argue without hate or rancour.

I debated against him four times. He was wholly frank about his aim - 
the legalisation of selfish pleasure and the profits to be made from 
it. He was a criminal - but had served prison time for it without complaining.

NEVER did I hear him produce the sort of pious, oily rubbish you 
usually get from the advocates of the Big Dope lobby. He listened to 
my arguments. By the next time I met him, he would have read up the 
facts and prepared a thoughtful response. I cannot tell you how rare 
that is. Most Big Dope advocates never listen to a word their opponents say.

What a pleasing contrast he was to the pitiful Nick Clegg, who 
ceaselessly calls for drug law liberalisation with the ingratiating 
smarminess of a newly hatched curate. He was at it again on the BBC's 
Newsnight last week.

The programme, which recently gave the ridiculous Russell Brand a 
free platform for his wet opinions on drugs, filmed Mr Clegg 
wandering around Colombia, mouthing pro-legalisation pieties.

The former Deputy Prime Minister clearly knows almost nothing about 
the subject. He's never met a cliche or a fat, juicy slab of 
conventional wisdom that he doesn't like.

He actually said that many people in this country are 'forced to 
steal to fund their drug habit, because both drug dealing and drug 
use are illegal'. Forced to steal? By whom? No, they choose to do so 
because they are selfish and cruel and don't care about wrecking 
other people's lives. And beside the fact (seemingly unknown to the 
former Deputy PM) that the police are rapidly giving up enforcing the 
laws against drug possession, how does this follow?

If cannabis was legal in this country, the big producers wouldn't 
give it away free. In fact it would be more expensive because it 
would be taxed. Which is why there's so much crime in the UK 
surrounding smuggled but legal alcohol and tobacco. So why on earth 
would dishonest, greedy people stop stealing to pay for it, just 
because it was legal?

The absence of thought here is amazing, as is Mr Clegg's complacent 
lack of interest in the growing correlation between cannabis use and 
mental illness, not to mention horrible, violent crime.

Howard Marks looked like what he was, the ravaged, ruined advocate of 
a very bad cause. Mr Clegg, with his nice suit and his sweet tones, 
is far more dangerous, and a lot harder to like.
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