A British soldier who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles said he is now being treated as a criminal because he uses cannabis to cope with the post traumatic stress of his time spent in the Province.
Neil Paine, who is originally from Essex but now lives in Coleraine, served in Northern Ireland during the 1990s.
He was born with mild spina bifida and his condition worsened after 14 years as a soldier – first with Royal Anglians, then Royal Irish – and then working as a labourer.
The 48-year-old said his time as a soldier in Northern Ireland has brought about PTSD, a condition for which he finds cannabis and cannabis oil offers the only respite. He also takes it to ease the chronic pain he suffers from a degenerative disorder to his spine.
He said: “It’s very good for the relief of pain and it keeps the symptons of PTSD under control. It stops the nightmares and flashbacks.
“I find it’s the only thing that works without giving me suicidal tendencies or turning me into a recluse, not wanting to be part of my family.”
Mr Paine – who is married and has two children aged 30 and 27 – said the cannabis and cannabis oil he used was illegal, but said there were some CBD oils on the market that were perfectly legal as they come from hemp and are marketed as a food supplement.
He said: “I’ve been in trouble with the police a couple of times. I took it upon myself to grow my own medicine and ended up in the courts.
“I’m now viewed as a criminal by a state which I defended for 14 years and that really doesn’t sit well.”
He added: “The way the law stands around medicinal cannabis, it’s pushing people who need it towards the black market, towards criminal elements.”
Mr Paine had stood for election as a member of the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol (CISTA) party, though he said he left after the 2015 general election.
“As much as I believed in the cannabis issue we were standing for, I didn’t believe that trying to make myself into a politician was the way for me to go.”
Since then he was instrumental in setting up a Northern Ireland branch of the United Patients Alliance, who will be holding a medical cannabis summit this Saturday at Queen’s University.
He said: “I believe that members of organisations concerned with the care of veterans could gain a much-needed insight into this long-demonised medicine.
“The Barnes Report already shows evidence to support the medicinal and therapeutic value of cannabis as treatment for PTSD among other conditions.”