‘Cancer is a kick in the c**t’: Howard Marks’ guide to drugs, Twitter and facing death

RIP Mr Nice: Words of wisdom from the drug dealer-turned-writer.

Howard Marks
So long, Mr Nice Howard Marks has passed away at the age of 70. Image Picture Ian Gavan/Getty

Howard Marks, the drug smuggler-turned-best-selling author, has died at the age of 70.

Marks, who went by the alias Mr Nice, became an international cannabis smuggler in the 70s and 80s before being convicted by the American Drug Enforcement Administration.

After serving seven years of a 25-year prison sentence he was released in 1995 and penned the the autobiographies Mr Nice, Senor Nice and crime novel Sympathy For The Devil. Mr Nice was turned into a film in 2010 starring Rhys Ifans.

Marks continued to write in his final years, and was an agony uncle for Loaded for the magazine’s final two issues in 2015. Here we head into the archives and pull out some sage pieces of wisdom from the man we called Uncle Nice.


How to become a drug dealer

“First, you’ll need to buy some scales. You will also need a lot of mobile telephones. And you should probably get yourself locked up in a nick for a few weeks just to be sure you can really handle becoming a drug dealer.

“Back when I ran one of the largest dope smuggling concerns in the history of the planet, people were always coming to me and saying, ‘Howard, find me a role in your organisation, I need to make some easy money quickly and I’d be great at smuggling.’ They always used to think it was ‘easy money’, which it was in a way, I suppose.

“But it had a very high potential downside, which is not easy at all. So I always used to ask them if they’d ever been to prison. When they told me they hadn’t I’d say, ‘Wee, you need to do that first to see if you can handle it.'”


On social media obsession

“Twitter, it’s not really my bag. I was 60 when it came along and to be honest I couldn’t be bothered to get into something new. All I do know is when someone’s sitting with me and they can’t take their fingers or their attention off their smart phone, I have one of two simple reactions. If I’m bored by their company it’s a blessed relief. If I like them and I enjoy their company, it’s fucking annoying. Here endeth the lesson…”


On helping a friend through cancer

“First of all, you have my sympathy. As I found out when I was diagnosed with inoperable bowel cancer last year, cancer is a real kick in the c**t. I don’t know what your friend has and how his prognosis looks but just finding out you have cancer is a headfuck. I am lucky my girlfriend and family and some very good friends look after my well, but I do live alone and understand the importance of personal space, and it sounds like your friend might too. Stay close to him, keep him stoned and give him room. You’re the best medicine he’s got.”


What to do if you can’t stop smoking cannabis

“If you are an airline pilot, I would say you might want to look at knocking it on the head.  If, on the other hand, you have a job that is compatible with being stoned a lot of the time, like being a musician say, then perhaps you should focus on how you feel. It sounds like it’s making you anxious so just stop and find out if you are addicted, or not. I went seven years without dope when I was in prison in the States. If I can do it, so can you.”


Life is for living, even when times are tough

“There is some point to your life because life is a joyful gift. If you feel badly depressed then seek out help: take up a yoga class, take a walk in the park or just get out of bed. It’s only by doing things that we remember why we are all here – to live. I was diagnosed with cancer last autumn and have been told nothing can be done to stop the disease. Thanks for your kind words about my illness, but I’m not depressed – think about that.”

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