‘Cannabis social clubs’ could work in Northern Ireland says Cista man

Neil Paine of Cista
Neil Paine of Cista

A former soldier living in Coleraine is calling for a Royal Commission to be set up to investigate the relaxation of the laws on cannabis.

Neil Paine (45), a member of the new party called Cista (Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol), is standing in East Londonderry where he hopes to unseat Gregory Campbell of the DUP.

He passionately believes that “total reform of cannabis legislation is long overdue” and says local homes will soon be receiving party literature outlining their controversial policies.

Mr Paine, who uses cannabis for medical reasons, has twice been raided by police in the past but he said they did not charge him.

Born with a mild form of spina bifida his spinal problems worstened as he got older.

“I suffer from degenerative disc disease with a lot of pain in the top and bottom of my spine and neck. I have trouble walking on a number of days.

“Recently I was vaporising cannabis but the availability is a nightmare and I’m back to smoking it with tobacco.”

He says that his medical condition is down to his career in the army and afterwards when he became a plasterer.

“The options are that you grow it yourself or use local dealers and both are problematic.

“In the past I have gone to Amsterdam to get it and then come back home and go on the tablets and prescription drugs again. It’s not a good situation.”

He says many toxicology reports cite cannabis as safer than alcohol.

“All the reports say the same thing and some research has shown it to be safer than even caffeine.

“This part of the world seriously needs to catch up with what is happening elsewhere.

“What we are calling for is for a Royal Commission to be set up to analyse the entire issue and make recommendations to the government.”

CISTA talk passionately about how Northern Ireland could be a testing ground for this kind of law in the UK, encouraging a whole industry to establish itself both directly and on the periphery of cannabis.

Mr Paine, who is registered disabled, said that cannabis clubs in Spain could work here but says he would not support the use of the drug by youngsters because of the risk of brain damage.

“The financial benefits for this country could be great. There are so many uses for the plant and it could be grown and distributed here.

“Our economy is supported by money from alcohol and tobacco, so what not cannabis?”

For reasons of personal safety, Mr Paine declined to say where he lives in Coleraine. He has been married to his partner Katrina for 15 years.

“I’ve lived in Coleraine for 17 years now but was born and raised in Essex.

“I was in the army for 14 years and served the last four years with the Royal Irish Regiment.”

He admitted that canvassing in some areas, including door to door calls, would be very difficult but he hoped to do some.

“Our party leaflets arrived yesterday and I will be out from now on giving them out. We will also have a postal drop into homes with more details about what our party is all about.”

The other local Cista runners are Barry Brown, a former SDLP candidate and GAA star from Omagh. He is standing in West Tyrone, while Glenn Donnelly is standing in North Down.