COLUMNIST Peter Hitchens has launched a war on drugs but he has already made peace with the man once named “the most sophisticated drugs baron of all time”.

Award-winning Mail on Sunday writer Mr Hitchens, who lives in Oxford, has written a new book called The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs.

To help promote it, he will share a platform with Howard Marks, whose autobiography Mr Nice recalled his days as a drug dealer.

A debate on Britain’s current drug laws, followed by questions from the audience, will be staged at Waterstones book store in Broad Street, Oxford, on Thursday, October 18, at 7pm.

Mr Hitchens, 60, who helped to campaign last year for the library in Bury Knowle Park to remain open, said he was looking foward to the debate with Mr Marks.

While there may be a war of words, Mr Hitchens expects the debate to remain civil.

He said: “I’ve done three debates with Howard before and about a dozen years ago I was speaking at a National Union of Students event in Blackpool and my microphone was switched off because I was accused of saying something politically incorrect.

“To Howard’s enormous credit he said ‘if Peter is going then I am going too’ and we walked out together.

“I disagree with his views but both of us have said the other side has a right to his opinion. I think he’s a gentleman.”

Mr Hitchens added: “Lots of pro-legalisers in the drug debate get very intolerant regarding cannabis. It has become a cause célèbre and anyone who threatens it is wicked.”

In a TV debate earlier this year, Mr Hitchens attributed the drugs problem to “rich western kids selfishly following their pleasures.”

He added that this created a worldwide industry and huge flow of money which was disastrous for the entire globe.

He told the Oxford Mail: “People in Western countries insist on buying drugs and creating this terribly damaging trade.

“Parents get little support from the law, media or politicians. It’s a difficult thing.

“A lot of rock stars take drugs and do not care who knows it and there are drug lyrics in pop songs.”

Former Balliol College student Mr Marks began a 25-year jail sentence in America in 1990 but six years later was freed on parole and began to write his autobiography.

Mr Marks said: “I always enjoy coming back to Oxford, whether it’s to fulfil a dubstep DJ’ing commitment, conduct a modern history seminar on the 1960s, or participate in a debate.

“I have debated against Peter Hitchens on drug legalisation issues on a few occasions. I don’t always win. Neither does he.

“I am completely opposed to his irrational and zealously puritanical views on drug legalisation and shall do my best to discredit them as complete nonsense.

“However, I regard Peter as a first-class writer and debater and a courteous and considerate friend. I am looking forward to the next encounter.”

Waterstones events manager Charlie Hayes said: “Tickets are selling fast for this event and it’s bound to be a lively debate.

“It’s almost impossible to find two authors more diametrically opposed to each other’s views.

“Both are eloquent, intelligent men who feel right is on their side and are not afraid of speaking their minds.

“It will be fascinating.”

For ticket information, call Waterstones on 01865 790212.