“I prefer my life now,” Howard told me in 1998.
“But I do miss the smuggling.”
He once took a suitcase containing a million dollars into a room in the Park Hotel, Hong Kong. Then, leaving the door open, he fell asleep smoking a fat joint.
He had served seven years in American jails for dope smuggling, but still campaigned for the legalisation of marijuana. And he still smoked dope every day.
“They know they can bust me any time they want,” he said. “I’m obviously carrying joints 24 hours a day. I’ve never dealt or smuggled any other drug, other than cannabis. But I think every drug we’ve so far discovered should be made legal.”
My pal Gassan Waked had to interview Howard Marks for Seven Days, the biggest supplement-magazine in Israel, so he invited me along.
The article would coincide with the publication of Mr Nice, the hashhead’s best-selling autobiography, in Hebrew.
Howard said he rarely had nightmares about his former life.
But he admitted, “Sometimes I wake up in prison. It’s because I spent 3,000 nights in prison, a fair chunk of my life. Occasionally, I think I haven’t got out.”
He saw himself as a mischief-maker, a happy-go-lucky militant maverick .
“People who knew me well knew what my profession was. Occasionally I would meet a stranger, and it wouldn’t take too long before I was indiscreet. I told quite a lot of people.”
Would he smuggle again? “If I thought I could get away with it, I’d do it tomorrow.”
He said his main priority at that time was to legalise cannabis. “I can make a really strong contribution, I feel , to that movement. I could join thousands of other things that I feel are unjust. But I would be a little voice in a wilderness. I know here I can make some kind of an impact. Job satisfaction comes into it. I know that I have some effect on our campaign.”
Marks believed that only a landlocked country can prevent the importation of drugs.
“It’s easier by sea. It’s all quite easy. Most of the runs get through. The biggest estimates ever made was that the seizures approximate to 10%. Other estimates vary at around 4 or 5%.There’s always gonna be more we don’t know about, so I’d trust the smaller estimate. So it is quite a small fraction.”
After the interview we gave Howard the parcel from Tel-A-Viv.
He opened it and took out the paperback and Gassan translated the blurb from Hebrew into English : “Mr Nice, a wild autobiography about an international marijuana stockist, sociopath and criminal who did everything. A nightmare to every Jewish momma.”
We all laughed.
“Is that what it says? Seriously?” asked Howard, somewhat concerned.
“Yes,” says Gassan. “But it also says, “On the whole, a nice chap.”
We went to his Sunday show at Dingwalls on December 20th and had a rocking night.
What a character! RIP.
PS, The most entertaining book about hash smuggling is Mr Nice.
The most exciting book about cocaine smuggling is Snowblind