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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Ex-Carlisle mayor and drug campaigner dies aged 75

A Cumbrian-born local politician who rose to become a leading campaigner on drugs issues has died aged 75.

Colin Paisley photo
Colin Paisley

Colin Paisley’s early life was blighted by chronic heroin addiction but he rose above his problems and turned his experience of life into a positive force in his home city of Carlisle.

He used the drug for 18 years, and devoted much of his adult life to campaigning for more social tolerance of a problem which he believed should be treated as medical rather than criminal.

A seasoned political campaigner, he was seldom out of the headlines as the campaigned for what he regarded as a common sense approach to the drugs problem.

Born and bred in Raffles, he was proud of his roots and proud to serve his community as a local politician. He was a Labour councillor for 13 years, representing St Aidan's ward until 1999.

One of his proudest periods in public life came when he served as Carlisle’s mayor in 1994/95.

Interested in politics from an early age, he started out as a communist before moving to Labour and then the Liberals. In his later years, it was his continuing interest in the drugs debate that dominated his political thinking

This prompted him in 1999 to stand for the cross-party Legalise Cannabis Alliance against top Tory Michael Portillo in the Kensington and Chelsea by-election.

He also stood for the pro-cannabis group in the 2001 General Election.

But Mr Paisley fell out of love with “New Labour” politics under Tony Blair, and in a dramatic gesture in 1999, he publicly tore up his Labour Party membership card in front of journalists.

Above all other issues, it was the drugs debate remained his lifelong passion.

In 1991, he spearheaded a drive to gather support in the North of England for a Royal Commission on the legalisation of drugs.

He remained adamant that many of the problems faced by addicts and society often had more to do with the ban on illicit drugs rather than by the drugs themselves.

He said: "More and more people are having to steal to find the money to prop up their habits and more and more are going to prison.”

Mr Paisley also chaired a Carlisle charity that gave support to drug users families.

At the time of his death, Mr Paisley was living at the Kingston Court Care Home in Newtown Road. He died in Cumberland Infirmary. last Thursday.

The home’s manager Jean Walker said: "He was quite a character and liked to keep up-to-date with current affairs and politics.”

Details of his funeral are not yet known.

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