**UPDATE: Billy has been rushed into hospital and is in a life-threatening state, just hours after his medicine (cannabis oil) was seized at the UK border. (06/15/2018)
Help Save Billy. End medical cannabis prohibition. Urge the Home Office to grant a licence to Billy Caldwell. #Cannabis is Medicine.
**UPDATE: Home Secretary Sajid Javid has granted Billy Caldwell a special licence to be treated with cannabinoid-based medications. The Home Office was under intense pressure from the public and MPs of all parties to return Billy’s medication. Hopefully, this will lead to the legalization of medical cannabis in the UK. The UK government has almost painted themselves into a corner on this issue. Can the UK carry on denying the science?
Last year, Billy Caldwell became the first child in the UK to be prescribed cannabis as a medicine on the NHS. For 250 days, Billy could safely get his medications and remain seizure-free. Then, under orders from the Home Office, Billy’s doctor was told not to renew his prescriptions, or face being disbarred from practicing medicine. Like so many medical cannabis “refugees”, Billy’s mother, Charlotte Caldwell, was forced to go overseas to ascertain the medication her son requires to live.
Fast forward to Monday, June 11, 2018, and Charlotte Caldwell had just stepped off the plane from Canada, where medical cannabis is legal; and upon her arrival in Northern Ireland, where it is illegal, she was detained by the UK border patrol. Her crime? Transporting the medicine that will stop her child from having seizures.
Charlotte went to Canada in order to get a cannabinoid-based medication for her son, only to have it confiscated by a customs officers in Northern Ireland upon her return. Fortunately, Charlotte was not arrested or cautioned for trying to “openly smuggle” an illegal substance into the country. Instead, she went to the Home Office to speak to the Minister of State, Nick Hurd, where they apparently had “an open and honest discussion”.
Billy needed his next dose of medicine by 3:30 p.m. Charlotte warned Nick Hurd that, if Billy did not get his medicine, his seizures would start again. She asked for Billy’s medication back. Nick refused. Charlotte rightfully asked if Nick could provide a solution, and was told she would receive a response by 5 p.m. on Monday. When 5pm ticked closer, Billy’s cannabis oil was still confiscated, and hours later he suffered his first seizure in 19 months.
So, what can Billy and Charlotte do? Charlotte says she’ll just go back to Canada and get some more. The only other alternative is to buy cannabis from illegal sources in the UK, which could be problematic in terms of ensuring consistency, safety and efficacy. In an extra twist of irony, the UK is the world’s leading exporter of medicinal cannabis products, exporting it for use in other markets. Yet, the UK will not allow its own citizens to have access to these medications. Charlotte is correct in saying that, by confiscating his medications, the government has effectively signed Billy’s death sentence.
This is the crux of the issue. How can the UK government deny a person life-saving medication? Is this not just the state allowing a person to die for the sake of politics, denying all the scientific evidence that hits them in the face on an almost daily basis? The “it’s illegal” argument does not hold water, either. Opioids and benzodiazepines are much more dangerous, and we do not mind if such drugs are prescribed, even though they are also illegal to use outside of physician’s orders.
So why is cannabis treated so differently, especially when it has a safety profile that makes it many orders of magnitude safer than that of many drugs we already prescribe? Surely, if it’s possible to control medical opioids, medical cannabis should not be such a huge challenge? No wonder so many MPs are outraged – the position the UK takes at the moment with regards to cannabis is untenable and ethically reprehensible.
There are many others like Billy, both in the UK and worldwide. In the US, we have seen many families move to states where cannabis is medically available, in order to treat their children. Should the UK decide not provide cannabinoid-based medications and to keep cannabis illegal, even for medical purposes, then expect to see many more Charlottes and Billys leave the country, and go somewhere where they won’t be denied life-saving medication, or prosecuted.
The UK, like much of the rest of the world, needs to catch up with the science and start taking the concept of cannabis as medicine seriously. This is the reason why you will see Doctor Frank in front of UK Parliament next week, arguing the case for medical cannabis with an all-party team keen on seeing injustices such as Billy’s case end. That is the least patients deserve.