Howard Marks, a major British drug smuggler turned cannabis legalisation campaigner and bestselling author, has died of bowel cancer aged 70, British media reported on Monday.
Marks graduated from Oxford University in the 1960s before embarking on an international criminal career spanning two decades that he described in his bestselling 1996 autobiography “Mr Nice”.
He smuggled hashish in the furniture of Pakistani diplomats moving to London and in the music equipment of fictional British pop groups touring the United States, and briefly worked for the MI6 spy agency.
In his book he also described doing business with the Trafficante crime family in the United States and using connections with Irish Republican Army paramilitaries in Ireland.
He lived under as many as 43 aliases.
Marks was finally arrested in 1988 and extradited to the United States where he served seven years in prison before being released on parole in 1995.
Marks was a “true modern-day folk hero” who did “so many funny, shocking, illegal things”, his publisher friend James Brown told The Guardian newspaper.
After his release, Marks became a campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis and launched a failed bid for a parliamentary seat in the 1997 general election.
He also had a monthly column in the British men’s magazine Loaded which was then edited by Brown.
“Smuggling cannabis was a wonderful way of living — perpetual culture shock, absurd amounts of money, and the comforting knowledge of getting so many people stoned,” Marks told The Observer newspaper in an interview last year.
“It’s impossible to regret any part of my life when I feel happy and I am happy now, so I don’t have any regrets and have not had any for a very long time.”