You ask the questions

Such as, Howard Marks: How can someone who's smoked as much dope as you remember things with any clarity?
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The Independent Culture
Howard Marks, 53, was born in Kenfig Hill, South Wales. In 1964, he went to Balliol College, Oxford, to read physics. After university, he carved out a career smuggling large quantities of marijuana and by the mid-Eighties, he was Britain's most wanted man. He had 43 aliases and ran 25 companies as drug-running front organisations. Eventually he was extradited from Spain to the US where he spent seven years in prison. Married with four children, he is the author of Mr Nice, his autobiography.

Introduce yourself to a stranger who has never heard of you in one


Rick McEwen, Brighton

I'm a temporarily unemployed dope smuggler.

Hash or weed?

Jon Cox, Oxford

I prefer the strongest hash to the strongest weed. These days, however, street weed is generally far stronger than street hash.

What's your favourite type of marijuana?

Simon Roberts, Shepherd's Bush

Very strong skunk.

Colombian Gold, Zero Zero, Afghani Black - which is your favourite tipple?

Daniel Myers, Camden

If we are referring to the best of each type offered, my favourite is Afghani Black.

Would you ever consider writing fiction? If so, what would you write about?

Rob Peel, Nottingham

I have considered writing fiction but have no reason to believe I would be any good at it. I'm sure that if I did make any attempt, I would be too nervous to stray away from drug-smuggling plots.

In your book you go into great detail about your drug-dealing, recounting dates, phone calls and locations exactly. How can someone who smoked as much dope as you did remember things with such clarity?

Shay Parsons

There are two main reasons:

(1) Dope does not appear to adversely affect that part of my memory.

(2) Under the United States Freedom of Information Act, I was able to obtain copies of all documentary and electronic evidence that the United States Drug Enforcement Administration had amassed against me. They amounted to several dozen boxes and contained detailed observation reports. Consequently, if I needed to know where I was and what I did on a particular date, I would consult the appropriate observation report.

Do you find that you have to live "up" to the role of professional criminal?

Alice Morgan

Crime is no longer my profession, and when it was, I pretended it wasn't. So there's nothing to live up to.

Does the naive adoration of your audiences affect you?


All adoration does.

Do you find yourself seduced by your own publicity?


I am aware of that danger and do my best to avoid it.

Do you feel concern about your association with and contributions to the coffers of organised crime and the IRA, when we know all too well the suffering they can inflict?


Organised crime has penetrated everywhere, including most legitimate businesses. New York garbage collection, for example, is entirely Mafia- controlled. This is well known by the dustmen, but appears to present them with few ethical problems. It is no more surprising to find the Mafia participating in drug-dealing than dealing in any other commodity or service. Given the large profits engendered in the trade of illegal recreational drugs, one can expect their participation to be enthusiastic.

Although I did smuggle hashish with someone who claimed to be an IRA man, the IRA officially denied that he was a member. I am utterly opposed to any activity which results in the slaughter of innocents. Nevertheless, I must admit I pay scant attention to which organisation an individual belongs. I make my agreements on an entirely one-to-one basis.

How have you become so actively involved in the club scene, and what motivated you to do so? Which producers/DJs do you hold in high regard, and what album you reach for while "relaxing"?

Paul Stewart

There has always been considerable overlap of drugs and music. My book turned out to be popular with members of the dance culture. I like today's tunes. The rest followed naturally.

I particularly like Tricky, Sid Shanti and Derek Delarge. At present, my relaxation is provided by Red Snapper's new album, Making Bones.

How much hash do you smoke per day?

Matt Myers

Between 20 and 30 joints.

When you met Iain Sinclair and Marc Atkins coming out of the M15 building opposite Millbank (while they were researching the book "Lights out for the Territory"), what had you been doing inside?

Jon Cox

Actually, it was MI6. I was not allowed further in than the foyer.

How close do you think we are to the legislation of cannabis in the UK and how do you see the current explosion in drugs such as Viagra and the new slimming pill?

David Hall, Maidenhead, Berks

Not close. Viagra sales make the illegality of cannabis appear even more hypocritical and ridiculous than it has been so far. But hypocrisy is no bar to a politician's progress.

Do you still have problems with the police?

Susie Harris, Camberwell

Not at all. Many of them, particularly senior ones, share my views.

If you hadn't got into dope, what do you think you would have done instead?

Ed Sinclair, Sheffield

I would have become a teacher, a profession I greatly enjoyed.

At the front of your book, you say you're considering a career in law. What area? Why law?

William Crook, Epping Forest

During my years in prison, I was a jailhouse lawyer. When I was released from prison, I thought I could use some of my experience to enable early release of prisoners. But that was before I was offered an advance to write a book.

What's your worst memory of being in prison?

Graham Garner, Epsom

It changes, but is often the day I heard that my son Patrick had jumped off a roof and broken his legs.

Do you feel that becoming an unofficial spokesperson for getting stoned has given you licence not to grow up?

Jules Ferguson, Glasgow

I have never objected to the process of growing up and have not consciously attempted to slow down my own progress in this regard. Accordingly, I have not sought such licence. I do, of course, accept that the age of today's average pot smoker is far less than it was.

What's the most paranoid moment you've ever had while smoking dope?


I have never suffered from paranoia.

How do you feel about your children experimenting with soft drugs? Have they read your book, and what do they think of your past?

Clare Budd, Banbury

I neither encourage nor discourage drug use. I know they are more likely to experiment than not, which is why I am against prohibition.

My three oldest children have read my book. As much of my past is their past, it's a difficult question to answer.

My children are aware of my strengths and my weaknesses.

How would you rather spend the next 24 hours: tripping on acid, pissed on vodka, stoned, or all three?

Steve Hunter, Wirral

Obviously, all three.

What's your all-time favourite album?

Tina Currie, Edinburgh

Blonde on Blonde, by Bob Dylan

What are you doing right now and what can you see in front of you?

Lizzie Forge, Colchester

I'm in Edinburgh psyching myself up for my last performance at the Edinburgh Film Festival. I can see monuments.

If you were invisible for one day, where would you go and what would you do?

Pattie Lewis, Stoke Newington

I would plant cannabis seeds everywhere.