I have met a lot of successful people over the last five years, but only a select few of them could be called a pop culture icon.
Howard Marks was one of those people, and I remember his visit to London Real like it was yesterday.
When I arrived here in London in 1997 (I am dating myself here!) the first book I read was Howard’s book Mr Nice.
In many ways this was the perfect introduction to British culture, as Howard’s life really captures the recent history of my adopted home.
Even his stories of prison life reveal a man who had the talent to remain positive and completely himself in the most restrictive and dangerous situations.
Remembering Mr Nice
Howard told me that his experiences in a US federal jail made him a better person.
He took himself less seriously and studied yoga. More importantly, Howard started getting a real buzz from helping others, teaching and supporting inmates with their legal cases.
After he got out, he threw himself into the campaign to legalise cannabis. This came from sense of injustice, the belief that people were being wrongfully criminalised for doing something completely harmless.
People loved Howard because he fought for the legalisation of a what many see as a harmless drug.
But Howard’s greatest charm was not his outlaw status, but his unapologetic individuality.
He deserves to be thought of as a legend and an icon, because like all great counterculture heroes, Howard Marks refused let the system, the government or the status quo to dictate who he was.
To say he was unique is a gross understatement. He was one in a billion.
We will miss you Howard, and sometimes it seems we need you now more than ever.