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Documentary to tell story of notorious Welsh drugs smuggler Howard Marks

19 Mar 2024 3 minute read
Howard Marks (Credit: PA)

A new documentary series is promising to tell the definitive story of Welsh cultural icon Howard marks.

A co-commission with BBC Cymru Wales, Hunting Mr Nice from Passion Pictures and Welsh indie Kailash Films is to offer new insights into the life of the world’s most notorious cannabis smuggler known as ‘Mr Nice’.

The two part documentary to be aired on BBC Two and iPlayer has unique access to members of his criminal inner circle as well as to the DEA agents and police who devoted their lives to bringing him to justice.

The series tells the story of how Marks, who grew up in a Welsh valleys village, dabbled in dealing weed while at Oxford University, before building a worldwide drug-smuggling empire (and even working for MI6) at the height of the war on drugs.

For decades the audacious and charismatic ‘Mr Nice’ managed to evade prosecution whilst writing books and appearing on television advocating decriminalisation. But then one day, his luck finally ran out.

Hunting Mr Nice is told from both sides of the law, with unique access to his network of former smugglers and to the DEA agents and police who devoted their lives to bringing him to justice. Also featuring journalists, lawyers and Marks’ friends, the series takes us inside the cultural phenomenon of ‘Mr Nice’ to ask how he was able to become so criminally famous yet continue to evade justice.

Filmed across the US, UK, Spain and the Philippines and featuring new archive and drama recon, it’s a story that explores our ever-changing relationship with drugs: from the hippie smugglers in the 1960s to the emergence of organised crime networks, to the vast law enforcement efforts to stop its sale, all the way through to debates about decriminalisation, instigated in the UK by Marks himself, that continue today.

At the heart of the series is the voice of the one man around whom it all revolved and who died a 90s cultural icon and controversial figure within America’s War on Drugs. But who was the real ‘Mr Nice’?

Nick Andrews, Head of Content Commissioning, BBC Wales, says: “Howard Marks was a fascinating character – a boy from the Welsh valleys village of Kenfig Hill who secured a place in Oxford but swapped academia for the life of an international smuggler, becoming Britain’s most infamous drug dealer in the process.

“Despite having links to the Yakuza, the IRA, the Mafia and MI6, Marks was known for his charm and charisma, more interested in changing the marijuana laws than indulging in criminality. Although, as this terrific documentary boxset reveals, the story behind the legend of Howard Marks was much more complex.”

Gwenllian Hughes, Co-Series Producer/Director and Creative Director of Kailash said: “It’s an honour to be able to tell the real story of a home-grown legend… we’ve all been raised with the myth of Howard Marks and I’m so excited to deep-dive into this incredible story.”

Nick Leader, Co-Series Producer/Director said: “With marijuana now legal in most of the US, it’s the perfect time to be able to explore this topic with a bit of hindsight.”

Date of transmission is yet to be confirmed

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Richard E
Richard E
24 days ago

Ive always been anti drugs i guess as ive worked with those whose lives they have helped wreck – but, but but been pro medical use in specefic areas Having said that – i once met Howard at a book signing. In both English and his Welsh.

What an experience that was in both content and delivery. His talent, warmth and understanding of folk was incredable.. ….he was open, self depricating and so able to engage. His love for Wales, understading of our destiny shone across the mixed audience.

Rob jones
Rob jones
22 days ago

He is not an icon he is a convicted drug smuggler who should be sidelined and ignored

Doctor Trousers
22 days ago
Reply to  Rob jones

Rob, where do you stand on people who manufactured and sold alcohol during prohibition in the US?
Not counting the ones who were also involved in violent crimes.

Conversely, how do you feel about people who legally grow and sell cannabis in countries where it’s legal?

22 days ago

Alcohol wrecks more lives than any other drug, yet it is legal. Howard only smuggled marijuana, which is now legal in many states. He is an icon.

22 days ago

Spot of criminality enhances a person’s standing especially among the political elites.

Doctor Trousers
22 days ago

He was a very funny, very charismatic storyteller. I saw him live, I read his book, I enjoyed his columns in loaded magazine. I also think he was a significant contributor to the culture of denial about the harm that heavy or habitual cannabis use can sometimes do. I say this as someone who very much believes it should be legal. It is absolutely less individually and socially harmful than alcohol. However, that is a bit like saying it’s less harmful than alligator wrestling. Booze is hardly safe, and cannabis is 6 times more likely to lead to someone seeking… Read more »

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