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Mr Nice Gets The Joint Giggling

International drug dealer Howard Marks rolled up in Leamington last night, and there wasnít a Tory shadow cabinet minister in sight.

Howard MarksThe one-time mastermind of a cannabis smuggling network has taken his life story to the stage, and entertained all with tales of his exploits.

This includes pretending to be a member of the Mexican Secret Service to explain away being caught with tonnes of hashish.

His smuggling career, which spanned decades, seems to have ended when he got busted in America, and was in prison for several years.

Now in his mid-50s, Marks has spent his freedom smoking cannabis and trying to find ways to get the drugs legalised.

Itís quite a funny tale, including his account of his application to be appointed Tony Blairís Drugs Czar, and a hilarious stint with a fez on his head as he explains why cannabis came to be illegal in the first place.

His delivery is droll. He stands for the most part and drawls into the microphone in a deep Welsh accent, no doubt enriched by years of herbal infusion in his throat. Shut your eyes and it sounds a bit like Ivor the Engine, but more scary.

Egged on by an adoring crowd, most of whom were too young to remember his Old Bailey trials, he demonstrated his belief in cannabis by lighting a joint on stage, and he starts giggling.

The problem is, as he explains, is that the police wonít arrest him. Thereís no reason to prosecute him Ė he stands to lose nothing except his freedom and even that doesnít bother him.

Heís tried to get arrested by walking into police stations and lighting up. They leave him alone because they know who he is. It isnít known if he tried this in Leamington police station 100 yards away last night.

As a result of all this, he has become something of a god for the cannabis-smoking population. Itís a bit surreal to see them in the Royal Spa Centre, plaques proclaiming civic splendour all around it.

With the main bar outside the auditorium shut, and the crowd queuing patiently for cups of tea before going back in for the second half, it felt more like a setting for a political meeting was happening.

But there were many more people there, and they were young. Ann Widdecombe take note.

Actually Marks isnít against her stance. He agrees that if there is a law, it should be enforced. It just so happens that he believes shouldnít be a law in this case.

Letís hope the whiff clears before Dickie Bird rolls his very different juggernaut into town on Saturday.
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Dick Whittington - Royal Spa Centre, Leamington - 21 Dec 00 to 8 Jan 01

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CWN / Arts & Entertainment / Spa Centre / 11 Oct 00

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