One Marks, one joint, no arrest

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The Independent Online
Howard Marks, darling of the international drug-dealing circuit for more than 20 years, presented himself at a London police station yesterday and invited officers to arrest him for the cannabis he was smoking, writes Decca Aitkenhead. Thanks, he was told, but no thanks.

Officers steadfastly declined to arrest Marks, and another campaigner, Rob Christopher, despite their protestations that they were distributing cannabis cakes to the 50 or so supporters gathered around them. "Sorry, but we don't want to know," they said.

The exercise was organised by the Cannabis Hemp Information Club, founded by Mr Christopher, in an enterprising attempt to highlight the inconsistencies in enforcement of the law against cannabis. Earlier, the protesters, an assortment of young and old, conventional and less conventional, had assembled at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, where cannabis cakes and fudge were handed out. Passing tourists were treated to an eloquent account of the virtues of the drug.

Marks, 51, released from prison after serving seven years in a US penitentiary for trafficking, told the crowd: "I am perfectly willing to be arrested today." Earlier this month hisautobiography, Mr Nice, was published - a colourful account of a chaotic, fast-living life of international deals, suitcases of money, elaborate laundering systems and endless aliases.

Among the protesters were several who used the drug, they said, to ease the pain of illness. One said he had to smoke it to counteract the side-effects of morphine, prescribed to him by his doctor. "Without it, life is one big black hole."

Also present were veterans of the Legalise Cannabis Campaign. Danny Roche (remarkably, his real name) had served three and a half years after growing a field of hemp "as a political protest" and informing the police. "I promised my girlfriend I wouldn't do anything to get into trouble today," he said. Then he lit up a joint and added: "What the hell ..."