Howard Marks: ‘Drugs give a valid life experience'

The session

HOWARD MARKS dealt dope for more than twenty years, evolving from small-time dealer to international drugs baron. He was caught and spent seven years in prison.

KEVIN WILLIAMSON spent the 805 on the extremes of Edinburgh left-wing politics, later becoming involved in dance culture. He founded the underground magazine Rebel Inc - now an Edinburgh-based publishing imprint.

Before going head-to-head in a Book Festival debate on drugs, they stage a warm-up session. WordszThom Dibdin

What was your earliest drug experience? Howard Marks Getting drunk at the age of about fourteen.

Kevin Williamson Eight years old. at the back of the bike sheds with a cigarette.

What was your most recent drugs experience?

HM About five minutes ago.

KW Getting thrown out of an Edinburgh bar for smoking some hydroponic grass last Saturday.

What was your best drugs experience?

HM Taking my first Ecstasy. about seven or eight months ago. I hadn‘t long come out of prison and I took it with my kids. so it was a

20 THEUSI’ 22—28 Aug 1997

bonding. catching up with seven years of absence overnight.

KW My first Ecstasy experience. which was actually MDA. a Snowball. about five years ago. I was interviewing a friend.

What was your worst drugs experience? HM A bad acid trip back in 1965. I really lost myself and had the horrors.

KW McEwan‘s lager.

What was your most interesting drugs experience?

HM Acid. early acid experiences in the ()US. The new thoughts. the new concepts. entertaining new ideas. increasing sensory

perception and having a new sense of humour.

Kevin Williamson: ‘I had Sensimilla grass which made U2 sound interesting’

KW In San Francisco I had this Sensimilla grass which made even U2 sound interesting.

What is the best thing about drugs?

HM The ability to change your mind and make you happy.

KW Some drugs. in the right circumstances. can provide life affirming. positive experiences.

And the worst thing about drugs? HM Disfunctioning as a result of abusing them. KW You're fucked the next day.

How would you define recreational drug use?

HM Anything that makes you happy.

KW When it is not habit forming. Any drug use that has not become a habit.

Have drugs changed our society for good or for bad?

HM For good. but the prohibition that accompanies them is bad.

KW For good. They have been the fundamental motor force for the development of society. from earliest known civilisation to the predominant force behind youth culture today.

Can drugs give you a valid life experience or do they just fill a gap?

HM They give a valid life experience. but I am sure they can just fill a gap in some situations. KW Anything that allows you to look at things from a different angle can be useful.

'Just say no' or 'Harm reduction'? HM Just say know. KW It has to be harm reduction.