In the last half of this article, we talked about Marks’ early life and his career as a drug smuggler. We also covered some bits and pieces concerning his personal life, his other careers and how he came to be arrested and imprisoned. Before we move on to life after prison, let’s talk quickly about the trial that landed him a 25-year prison sentence.
Before he was finally sentenced he was moved from prison to prison. He was handed a 40-page document detailing his crimes and those of his comrades. Due to the recent Sentencing Reform Act, he was facing 10 years without parole as a minimum sentence, with a potential maximum of life. When he came in front of a court Marks attempted to convince his accusers that he did what he did at the behest of the government. That the smuggling operations were directed at Australia rather than the United States. That he was a spy for MI6 and had been set up by the CIA because he had discovered a CIA drug smuggling ring. How much of this was true I don’t know. Either way, Howard and Judy were transported from Spain to America to be sentenced.
Marks refused to inform on his associates in exchange for a plea bargain, and in 1990 the trial began in earnest. Unfortunately, several of Marks’ associates, including his brother in law, agreed to speak against him in court in order to reduce their sentences. Therefore Marks pled guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison accompanied by a $50,000 fine. As I mentioned in the previous article, the prison that he was sent to was considered famously rough. However, since everyone knew he had not ratted on his conspirators and just generally because he was a nice and charming guy, he didn’t fair too badly amongst the violent inmates. While in prison he didn’t attempt escape, he was always pleasant and was an Oxford graduate with rumoured ties to MI6. As a result, he was granted parole and subsequent release in 1995.
After being imprisoned Howard Marks took on a new life. Of course, it would have been far too risky to get back into smuggling, and so instead he moved on to life as a public figure. His book Mr Nice came out just a year after his release, detailing his life story up until that point. This was translated into several languages as it took up popularity all over the world. His tale was fascinating and unique while being racy and filled to the brim with crime.
Then in 1997, he stood for parliament with the full intent of having cannabis legalised. He contested four simultaneous seats which included Southampton Test, Neath, Norwich South and Norwich North. Though his attempt to run only picked up about 1% of the vote, it did lead to the LCA or Legalise Cannabis Alliance which appeared and began work in 1999. During this time he also toured a one-man show that covered at length his life up until that point and his views on cannabis.
As we move on into Marks’ life we see him move onto the silver screen. He was in a few films including Human Traffic in 1999, the film adaptation of the Dirty Sanches tv show in 2006, I Know You in 2009, Killer Bitch in 2010, and finally, AmStarDam otherwise known as Stoner Express in 2016. This was a relatively inconsequential part of his career post-prison but still a fun one.
He also spent some time on screen in the music industry, appearing as a guest on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and collaborating with a wide variety of bands through the years. He performed at Glastonbury in 2009 and 2011 as well as a number of other festivals including Beautiful Days, RockNess, Camp Bestival, Sonisphere Festival and Kendal Calling. It seemed that Marks was trying hard to truly experience life to the fullest once he had put his life of crime behind him.
Personally, I have always been most intrigued by his legalisation advocacy and activism. Howard Marks appeared on many TV shows and in other forms of media pushing his pro-cannabis platform. This went on for a number of years, from his first run for government until 2016 he would speak publicly about the importance of legalising cannabis. He also wrote more books which are worth looking at. The Howard Marks Book of Dope Stories in 2001 and Señor Nice: Straight Life From Wales to South America looks at Marks’ pirate ancestor rather than being purely autobiographical. In 2011 he wrote a thriller titled Sympathy for the Devil and his final book in 2015 Mr Smiley: My Last Pill and Testament. This final novel was penned once Howard had been diagnosed with severe colorectal cancer.
In 2015 Marks spoke to several publications and newspapers about his recently diagnosed terminal illness. At this time he was receiving treatment for his cancer and was optimistic in his attitude, though not in his prognosis. He was very aware that there was little to no chance of the tumours disappearing, even if they were beginning to shrink due to the chemotherapy. He also made it clear to reporters that he experienced no regret about how his life had turned out. Right until the end, he spread his message about drugs and the legalisation of weed. He died at age 70 on 10th April 2016.
Few people have lived lives as fascinating as Howard Marks. If you ask those who knew him he was a charming, happy man who was afraid of very little in life, even cancer. Once again I am sorry I could only provide such a short overview of the man himself. However, if you want to learn more the internet is a gold mine of information, and of course, you could read one of his many books. Drug smuggler, activist, husband, politician and artist, and most importantly the one and only Mr Nice.
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