Peter Hitchens writes:
How on earth did I end up on friendly terms with Howard Marks, the drug-smuggler and pro-cannabis propagandist who died last week? Yet I did.
You might think we would loathe each other. He stood for almost everything I am against. But not quite. He was a fierce and instinctive defender of free speech, a rare and precious quality.
I learned this one long-ago evening in Blackpool, when a squawking rabble of ignorant, intolerant students succeeded in having me driven off the stage at a debate.
As a snivelling official of the National Union of Students switched off my microphone and ordered me from the room, Howard got up, put his arm around my shoulder and said quietly and firmly: ‘If he’s going, I’m going too.’
He walked by my side as we left through a knot of hissing, hostile zealots. I vowed never to forget it, and I never have.
He loathed my opinions, and I loathed his, but we both knew there was something higher and better than that – the freedom to argue without hate or rancour.
I debated against him four times. He was wholly frank about his aim – the legalisation of selfish pleasure and the profits to be made from it.
He was a criminal – but had served prison time for it without complaining. never did I hear him produce the sort of pious, oily rubbish you usually get from the advocates of the Big Dope lobby.
He listened to my arguments. By the next time I met him, he would have read up the facts and prepared a thoughtful response.
I cannot tell you how rare that is. Most Big Dope advocates never listen to a word their opponents say.
What a pleasing contrast he was to the pitiful Nick Clegg, who ceaselessly calls for drug law liberalisation with the ingratiating smarminess of a newly hatched curate.
He was at it again on the BBC’s Newsnight last week.
The programme, which recently gave the ridiculous Russell Brand a free platform for his wet opinions on drugs, filmed Mr Clegg wandering around Colombia, mouthing pro-legalisation pieties.
The former Deputy Prime Minister clearly knows almost nothing about the subject. He’s never met a cliché or a fat, juicy slab of conventional wisdom that he doesn’t like.
He actually said that many people in this country are ‘forced to steal to fund their drug habit, because both drug dealing and drug use are illegal’.
Forced to steal? By whom? No, they choose to do so because they are selfish and cruel and don’t care about wrecking other people’s lives.
And beside the fact (seemingly unknown to the former Deputy PM) that the police are rapidly giving up enforcing the laws against drug possession, how does this follow?
If cannabis was legal in this country, the big producers wouldn’t give it away free. In fact it would be more expensive because it would be taxed.
Which is why there’s so much crime in the UK surrounding smuggled but legal alcohol and tobacco.
So why on earth would dishonest, greedy people stop stealing to pay for it, just because it was legal?
The absence of thought here is amazing, as is Mr Clegg’s complacent lack of interest in the growing correlation between cannabis use and mental illness, not to mention horrible, violent crime.
Howard Marks looked like what he was, the ravaged, ruined advocate of a very bad cause.
Mr Clegg, with his nice suit and his sweet tones, is far more dangerous, and a lot harder to like.