back to top

Drug Smuggler And "Mr Nice" Author Howard Marks Dies Age 70

Last year, after being diagnosed with cancer, Marks said he had "no regrets".

Posted on

Howard Marks, the celebrated drug smuggler turned author, has died at the age of 70, after suffering from bowel cancer for little more than a year.

Ian West / PA WIRE

Howard Marks arriving at the UK premiere of the movie adaptation of Mr Nice in 2010.

Marks was arrested for cannabis smuggling in Spain in 1988 by the American Drug Enforcement Agency after eluding the authorities for decades. He was sentenced to 25 years in jail for his prolific, global activity in the drug trade.

But he was released after seven years due to good behaviour before rising to fame with his autobiography Mr Nice, published in 1996. The book told stories of the drugs underworld and prison life and became a bestseller. It was later made into a film starring Rhys Ifans and was the subject of Marks' one-man show, An Audience With Mr Nice.

He said of the book: "Through a plethora of media interviews and several public book readings, it became clear that the predominant reason why so many adolescents and university students read and enjoyed Mr Nice was their frustration with the law prohibiting cannabis consumption and trade.

"Until then, I had no idea of the extraordinary extent of cannabis use by young people today."

Marks, from Bridgend county in Wales, became a campaigner for drug law reform and stood for parliament in 1997 on a single-issue ticket of cannabis legalisation.

He also guested on songs by Welsh indie luminaries Super Furry Animals and appeared at Glastonbury festival and on TV shows including Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Marks announced in January 2015 that he was suffering from inoperable bowel cancer. He told The Observer at the time: "I've come to terms with it in my own way – which for me was about learning how to cry.

"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."

Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Patrick Smith at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.