People: Howard Marks applies to be Blair's drugs czar

Click to follow
The Independent Online
As CVs go, that of Howard Marks, the legendary marijuana smuggler and anti-Establishment champion, whose drugs empire once spanned the globe, may not sound the most appropriate applicant for the post of Tony Blair's new drugs czar, to spearhead the Government's assault on the narcotics trade. But none the less, he is applying for the job and hoping for an interview.

Since being released in1995, after seven years of a 25-year jail term in one of America's toughest penitentiaries, Mr Marks, 52, misses being the scourge of the authorities. He misses "cranking up huge smuggling operations and bringing in tons of dope under their noses," he said yesterday on a visit to England from his home in Majorca.

At the height of his powers during the1980s he had 43 aliases and owned 25 companies around the world, set up to launder the proceeds from his massive marijuana shipments. He may not smuggle any more, but he is still adamant that drugs be legalised and uses every opportunity to get this message across.

"That's why I'm standing for the drugs czar post," he said. "I'm writing my application form tonight and popping it in the post to Mr Blair. I suppose it's quite a CV I've got - I've certainly got the experience."

Mr Marks spelt out his proposals for combatting the drugs problem in the UK.

"I would legalise all drugs but, of course, there would have to be restrictions on the harmful ones - like a prescription or something. They would not be readily available on the street.

"But the harmless ones, like marijauna, would be treated like cabbage and grown in gardens and allotments. Keep it home-grown."

While he is aware that the PM's policies might be somewhat stricter, he remains ever the optimist. "There's always the chance he'll give me the job. You never know."

Mr Marks has spent his two years of freedom writing and promoting his autobiography, Mr Nice, now out in paperback, travelling the UK to attend signing and reading sessions in bookshops, bars and clubs. He is also making an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival and he recently set up a web site on the Internet, giving details of events, music and his beloved marijuana. Throughout, he has kept up his legalisation campaign.

Last year he walked into Marylebone Police station smoking a joint and distributed "hash cakes" to passers-by on the pavement outside.

In the general election, he stood for Parliament (and lost) in four constituencies on a legalisation ticket. And last weekend in Portsmouth, he was the guest of honour at a legalisation rally. True to form, he got himself arrested for lighting up.

Matthew Brace

Letters, page 13