Howard Marks, drug smuggler turned author of ‘Mr Nice’, dies at 70

Writer and actor Howard Marks poses in Paris on March 16, 2011, on the sidelines of the French Book Fair. — AFP pic
Writer and actor Howard Marks poses in Paris on March 16, 2011, on the sidelines of the French Book Fair. — AFP pic

LONDON, April 11 — Former drug smuggler-turned-author and performer Howard Marks has died. He was 70.

Marks, who was also known as Mr Nice, announced last year that he had been diagnosed with inoperable bowel cancer.

The Guardian was the first to break the news yesterday, and tributes have started to flood in for the man described as “truly lovely, entertaining and inspiring.”

Marks first came to the public’s attention when he published a bestselling memoir in 1996, the year after his release from a US prison, where he had been incarcerated for drug offences.

He told the Observer last year that he had “no regrets” about his life.

“I’ve come to terms with it in my own way — which for me was about learning how to cry,” he told the UK newspaper.

“It’s impossible to regret any part of my life when I feel happy and I am happy now, so I don’t have any regrets and have not had any for a very long time.”

He added that he felt privileged to have lived an “incredible” life, which allowed him to spend time with “musicians, DJs and other lovers of dope.”

According to a brief bio in The Guardian, Marks was born in 1945 near Bridgend, in Wales. He was educated at the University of Oxford before becoming a cannabis smuggler.

After being caught by US authorities in 1988, he was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment in the Terre Haute federal penitentiary. He was released on parole in 1995, having served seven years.

In his later life, he became a campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis, and even stood for election in four parliamentary constituencies in the 1997 UK general election on the issue.

Marks also became a pop culture figure in the UK.

He appeared on the Super Furry Animals’ 1996 song Hanging with Howard Marks, ran the record label Bothered and DJ-ed.

He also made a cameo appearance in Human Traffic and was played by his friend Rhys Ifans in the 2006 film about his life, Mr Nice.

As a performer, he also gave talks across the UK about his life as a cannabis smuggler, and ran a one-man comedy show, An Audience with Mr Nice.

Marks leaves behind his long-term partner Caroline Brown and four children.