Howard Marks – Meeting Mr Nice – Redux

The sad news of counter-culture icon Howard Marks’ inoperable cancer has been met with great sadness here at London Real.

I’m sure you are aware how important he is to the show, and how incredibly grateful we were to have him visit the studio a couple of years ago.

In order to show our respect to Howard, this week’s episode is a REDUX of the hugely entertaining interview we did with him.

The reversal of ludicrous drug laws is close to our hearts on this show, and Howard Marks has championed this cause for the best part of thirty years.

This has been his life’s purpose, whether it is being imprisoned as one of the most successful cannabis smugglers in history, or as a writer of his memoir ‘Mr Nice’ which brought the drugs debate to a whole new generation.

Howard is every bit the British gentleman, mixing his outlaw status with a brilliantly warm personality. His blend of kind heartedness and bold adventurism is what we’ve always been about at London Real.

Howard is charming, witty, and intelligent.

Howard Marks answers some tough questions about his links with the IRA, and he reveals how he managed to survive in the brutal American prison system. Some parts of his story are just incredible!

He infiltrated Pakistan on the behalf of drug lords, maintained over forty different identities and passports, and doubled as an agent for the British secret service.

While serving his sentence in the infamous Terra Haute prison in the US he discovered that the best way to survive in a tough environment was to serve others.

You can’t get more London Real than that!

Even hardened criminals respond tosomeone delivering value! Howard acted as a lawyer for other prisoners and helped some with literacy skills and education.

In the course of revisiting this London Real favourite, you’ll see just how Howard managed to ride the massive ups and downs of his adventurous life. According to his book ’Mr. Nice’ even was shot the film of the same name in 2010.

He has this joyful energy about him, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

He’s also got the most amazingly deep and musical voice, and a disarming smile.

Howard is someone we are very proud to have hosted here at the studio, and we send solidarity, love and gratitude to him and his family at this difficult time.

Tell us about the book Mr Nice. Why as a society we like the rebel the Robin Hood type. [7:10]

Writing for a different target audience. Writing the book at his early fifties. [7:30]

Becoming a folk hero and a symbol of a new generation. [8:24]

Cannabis was a privilege for upper class academics in those days. [8:45]

Being introduced to cannabis at Oxford as an intellectual academic experience. [9:15]

Roughly half of cannabis consumed in Britain is grown. [9:50]

People don’t pay import tax growing cannabis so its like the post Prohibition state. [10:00]

Just about to be legalised….for 50 years [10:38]

Colorado and Washington legalising non medical marijuana – is this progress? [11:04]

Doctors are ethically bound to want to legalise marijuana. [11:10]

In the Reagan era, with the war on drugs, being charged was more politically driven rather than legally driven. [11:37]

Being a political prisoner. [12:05]

Consequence of not studied American law – all embracing laws,  racketeering, continuous criminal enterprise. [12:15]

Doing things differently if I had more legal insight and continued longer. [12:45]

What would Howard do differently? [12:57]

Having ex-Wife arrested. [13:01]

How answering the phone call made her part of his conspiracy. [13:20]

Being aware that she was assisting someone who can reasonably be expected to be a dope dealer. [13:25]

Being one step ahead of the authorities. Even better technologies. [13:55]

Faster cars, faster boats and better communication. [14:10]

Same characters. Shifting goal post. [14:35]

Having a legal and accounting team. [14:40]

Running a legitimate face. From massage parlours in Bangkok to bars in Spain. [15:11]

What kept Howard Marks going? [15:40]

It was a game. Howard never taught using cannabis was morally wrong. [16:10]

Laws against cannabis was sinister and evil. [16:20]

Who would you equate yourself with during those hard times. Doing a greater good. [16:50]

Being an outlaw. Harry wood ?? [17:03]

Being a teacher while dealing cannabis. By 25 his drug dealing career was taking over. [18:10]

The adrenaline of crossing European borders driving with hash from Germany. [19:00]

Fear of not returning home and submitting to it. [19:30]

Feels like a non-sexual orgasm. Smuggling is very similar to gambling. [20:00]

How to cross a border smuggling in the 70s. [21:30]

Going to Pakistan to test the quality of hash. [22:05]

Dressing ups as a local in Pakistan. [23:20]

Wax live THC, traditional way of collecting wax with kids to make temple stick or temple ball???  [23:50]

What is Howard’s prefered was of consuming consuming cannabis. [24:30]

Will Howard ever stop smoking? [24:50]

I experimented with all the variations and like them all. [25:30]

Does you have an “immunity” from being stoned? [26:06]

How many passports did you have? How many identities did you have? [26:35]

What kind of money was involved for a 30 ton consignment? What was the scale of the operation? [26:45]

How Howard Mark became Mr Nice. [28:07]

How big was the empire? [28:50]

300-600 people working for Howard as the biggest dope the world has ever known. [29:20]

The language used was a framework the DEA tried to fit their evidence into. [29:50]

Diversification into other drugs. [30:20]

The story of Donald Steinberg smuggling 10s of tons of marijuana. Counting Samsonites [30:30]

Going for the top down approach of arresting smugglers. [31:45]

Even being successful in this business, it is not inevitable to get caught. [31:15]

Have you ever thought about going back after serving jail in 1995. [32:50]

Being under surveillance. Enemies with the British authorities. [33:40]

James Bond. MI6 headquarters. What was it like when Howard was recruited. [34:39]

MI5 vs MI6. License to kill vs license to deal. [35:40]

MI1, MI2, MI3 and MI4. [35:58]

Reason for being recruited. [36:20]

Involvement with the IRA. [36:50]

Chief Intelligence Officer of the Belfast Brigade of the IRA but that’s not what the IRA thinks. [37:15]

British government on the IRA’s side and the sympathy for the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland in 1969. [38:35]

Jim McCann was the Che Guevara / Fidel Castro of Europe. [38:50]

Ethical problems and smuggling dope was OK compared to smuggling guns. [39:18]

The idea of smuggling guns with dope. Connecting two ideas for business. [40:25]

The relationship was a net gain with downsides. [41:10]

Infiltrating the MI6 through Howard and Howard using the similar defence of infiltrating the IRA through Jim. [41:40]

Using the same ‘get out of jail card’ for 15 years and the MI6 lawyers admitted it. [41:50]

Being acquitted at the Old Bailey and a sign from God to continue smuggling. [43:15]

Jim McCann the character in the book. [44:17]

Keeping in touch with Jim. [45:00]

Danger in associating with former ‘colleagues’ [45:38]

Attitude towards the people who testified against him. Not blaming on people but own ability to judge others. [48:00]

Testified against by my own brother-in-law. [48:16]

The thought of seeing my own kids…. should I roll over? [49:00]

Never grassing people up. [49:25]

Terre Haute was more ominous with the death row. [51:00]

The first month in prison. Teaching English grammar in prison. Writing letters to their girlfriends. [54:00]

Becoming a jailer’s lawyer. Reduced sentence. [54:30]

Becoming of their voice and giving them value. [54:50]

Not snitching and grassing became a capital. [55:01]

Surprised when you were paroled. [55:25]

Behaviour wasn’t the real reason for being considered for parole just the threshold. [56:20]

Judge given the parole even though the DEA wanted to make Howard stay in a US prison for as long as possible. [56:40]

Is it because you evaded them so well, it became personal? [57:14]

DEA is a political institution. [57:30]

Having your life affected by political winds. [57:50]

Change in the law or amnesty. [58:15]

What was positive about prison? [58:30]

Spiritual side of helping people less fortunate than oneself. [59:10]

Getting behind the legalisation movement. At last a moral/political agenda. [59:40]

Coming out of prison was like a psychedelic event with their ego reduced. [1:00:20]

Better family relationships. Happy of going to prison. [1:01:10]

Yoga and meditation in prison. [1:01:16]

Do you miss the money the lifestyle? [1:02:30]

Enjoy the business more than the lifestyle. [1:03:15]

That’s where it is. Forgetting where I stashed the money. [1:03:50]

Suitcase full of cash was encouraged by the banks. Law against money laundering. [1:05:00]

Money laundering business today. [1:06:30]

Why you never moved other products other than cannabis? [1:06:40]

Never able to satisfy the demand for cannabis anywhere. [1:07:20]

Cocain. The moral question. A different ball game. Not a question of money per unit volume. [1:08:10]

Its more a question of time. Doing many big deals [1:09:15]

Mixing impurities in cocain. [1:09:40]

Legalising all drugs. [1:10:13]

Heroin – level to get high and level at which it kills very close. [1:11:09]

Howard’s interview of David Nutt.[1:12:00]

Riding a horse is more dangerous than taking an ecstasy pill. [1:12:38]

Leah Betts victim of ecstasy related death. [1:13:45]

Prohibition of drugs. [1:15:00]

The house I live in – documentary. [1:15:22]

Decriminalisation is a step towards legalisation. [1:16:00]

Democracy. [1:16:38]

Hopeful about what’s happening in the US. [1:17:40]

In 30 – 50 years, what would the drug landscape be like? [1:18:09]

Framing the law in terms of the effects rather than the drugs. [1:09:00]

Violence in the transactions and running against criminal organisations. [1:19:45]

The Gambino family. How a transaction worked with them. [1:21:06]

How do you get up in the morning, now that you have retired from smuggling. Stage fright. Risking looking like an arsehole in front of 4-500 people. [1:23:47]

Smell of fear. I can smell it on my sweat. [1:25:00]

Getting the endorphin rush. [1:25:15]

The question most people ask Howard. [1:25:35]

Getting caught was an important part. [1:26:50]

Why write fiction? Writing autobiographies. [1:27:05]

Its being proposed that criminals who write about their crime could be made not profit from the writing. [1:28:25]

Writing crime fiction from the exact opposite character. A female undercover drug cop. [1:29:15]

Trilogies in crime fiction. Stieg Larsson. [1:30:40]

How Howard writes. A roll kicks in. [1:31:20]

Smoking cannabis helps. [1:32:10]

Adrenaline without the fear. [1:32:15]

Forgetfulness is the catalytic germ of spontaneous creativity. [1:32:30]

The side effects of getting to the truth while writing is forgetting it instantly. [1:33:50]

Dance music. Whenever a man comes out of prison he should take ecstasy with his children. Music that Howard enjoys. [1:35:00]

Prisons are the cradle of hip hop. Music was my first love. Hooked on music before sex and drugs. [1:36:01]

What’s been happening in the music scene? Dad, you’ll never understand this unless you take one of this little fellas. Taking ecstasy with his son. [1:36:36]

Psychedelics. Acid becoming illegal in 1966. Taking acid in Oxford in 1965 and having the effects felt every 3 days due to the tolerance. [1:37:40]

Bad acid trips. Taking it once a year to reinvent myself. One of the safest drugs. [1:39:05]

Watching MRI brain scans after psilocybins. Morbidity of older people taking LSD. [1:39:58]

Terminally ill patients in US are given psilocybins. Strong case for drug use. [1:41:14]

Do you think about death? [1:41:43]

What’s next for Howard? [1:42:16]

Howard’s 2 different shows. [1:43:00]

Stand up comic. Book promotion. [1:44:00]

Smoking while performing. Why Howard qualifies. [1:45:57]

Length of show. [1:46:25] @officialmrnice capycat facebook profiles [1:46:50]

Lifetime ban to the US. Aggravated Fallon. Consequence of breaking parole condition.  [1:47:18]

China, US, Australia [1:49:00]

Sold out in Australia but denied entry. [1:49:20]

Irony that the whole country had to be convicted to get there. [1:50:30]

Have you ever hung out with Snoop Dogg? [1:50:30]

Do celebrities seek you out? [1:50:50]

Meeting Howard Marks from Capital Investment [1:51:25]

Selling Mr Nice to the BBC. Sean Penn championing Mr Nice. [1:52:10]

As a minor celebrity meeting non-minor celebrities. [1:53:40]

BBC relinquished the book. Complication of TV rights and film rights. [1:53:59]

Rhys Ifans portrayal of Howard. Rhys was in a band. How Rhys became Mr Nice. [1:55:08]

Doing a young kid a favour. [1:56:52]

Thank you. [1:57:40]

Connect with Howard Marks

Howard Marks’ book Mr Nice

Howard Marks’ book Sympathy for the devil


Connect with cohost for this episode – James ‘The Colossus” Thompson



James Thompson’s LR episode

Selected links from this episode


Acid /LSD








Samsonite bags

Terre Haute, US Federal Prison with a Death Row,_Terre_Haute

Numbered Bank Account

Howard Mark’s interview with David Nutt on Heroin –


The House I Live In – documentary

Stieg Larsson – trilogy –

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Aggrevated Falon


People Mentioned

Outlaw – Hareward the Wake

Mr Nice actor Rhys Ifans

Jim McCann actor David Thewlis

Donald Steinberg and the Underground Empire

Jim McCann

Che Guevara

Fidel Castro

John Dillinger

Professor David Nutt

Leah Betts

The Gambino Family

Snoop Lion (Snoop Dogg)

Sean Penn

Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital Management

Rhys Ifan’s band Super Furry Animals

Uncle Sam

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Cez Całka

What an amazingly nice man!

Cory J Anderson
Cory J Anderson

Always awesome interviews, love London Real. One suggestion if I may, stop saying “ok” like a homo every time some one completes a statement. I don’t know if anyone else notices but it drives me fucking nuts (excuse the language). With that said, keep up the great work!

Ben Wells
Ben Wells

Great interview with the main man >> very candid and relaxed >> covering all the relevant issues and topics in an informative and conscientious fashion… a really good way to have met Howard Marx and I look forward to seeing the movie >> also having a lead into the movie ‘The Culture High’ really is making for a good progressive stepping stone line of information to follow… thank you very pleased that you redux this

William Peynsaert

No success secrets??


Oxford, Howard Marks,Oranges and Lemons,Hash.Oxford,Operation Julie,L.S.D. Oxford “Itchy coo park”some of my formative years.Wonderful memories ,wonderful times ,all you people ,love forever and ever and ever.

john henderson
john henderson

Howard Marks pure legand best interview i have seen for a good while , just a down to earth guy . full respect .

Sam Suley
Sam Suley

fuck russell brand. mr nice rules!

Rui Pimentel

Love Mr. Nice, and this redux is much more enjoyable.
btw, +1 for bringing Russel Brand

Marie Field-Carpenter
Marie Field-Carpenter

Wow! This is absolutely fascinating to watch. I was unaware of Howard Marks – what a rich life he’s led. Great interview, I thoroughly enjoyed this! Thank you!

Arwa Stone
Arwa Stone

What an interesting character! So funny!


Russel Brand would be good

David Thorley
David Thorley

Yeah get Russel Brand on, that would be interesting.


The best trailer ever, bring Russell Brand next time.

Decebal Dobrica
Decebal Dobrica

feels like London real is already in the cards for the big screen