Alfie Dingley: the Right to Access Medical Cannabis in the UK

Alfie Dingley’s case reflects that of Billy Caldwell’s in so many ways. Both suffer from Dravet, a severe form of epilepsy that can cause tens to hundreds of seizures per day – up to 150 per month in Alfie’s case. Both live in the UK, both have been denied their life-saving medication, both much travel to the Netherlands or Canada in order to get their medicine, and the families of both boys have been in contact with the Minister of State, Nick Hurd. Alfie’s family are applying for a licence to use cannabinoid-based medications for their son.

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The alternative for both Billy and Alfie is a series of opioids, AEDs and intravenous steroids, all of which can cause psychosis, organ failure and addiction. Cannabinoids, meanwhile, are far more well-tolerated, have a much better safety profile and are arguably many times better than the medications available for rare forms of epilepsy.

Applying for a licence is not a new experience for Alfie’s mother, Hannah Deacon. She has applied to the Home Office for a licence before, but was refused. Hannah applied again in April, and officials would apparently expedite the process on compassionate grounds. As far as we know, the licence has not been granted. In the past, the Home Office has turned down Hannah’s application on behalf of Alfie, as it is believed that cannabis cannot be practically prescribed, administered or supplied to the public.

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This is an interesting ruling, especially considering that the UK is the largest exporter of medical cannabis. Prime Minister Theresa May’s husband, Philip May, works for Capitol Group – the largest investor of the UK’s main producer of medical cannabis, GW Pharmaceuticals, with a 15% stake. Conservative Drugs Minister Victoria Atkins is married to Paul Kenward, managing director of British Sugar, which is growing 45 acres of cannabis under a government licence in Norfolk.

Understandably and rightfully, people are branding many members of the Conservative Party “hypocrites”. How can they say “there are no medical properties in cannabis” as they grow and sell from medical cannabis? How can they deny their own citizens access to a medication they profit from on overseas markets? Ethically speaking, how can someone deny a dying child their medicine? Something smells rotten in the state of the UK, and it’s not emanating from the smoke or vapor of the hundreds of thousands of people who are using cannabis for their ailments illegally.

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At the moment, it seems that GW Pharmaceuticals has a monopoly on cannabis in Britain at the moment. The UK government does not seem to be too keen on breaking this monopoly by handing out cannabis licences to those in dire medical need. This is much to the UK’s detriment, and a huge curtailment of the rights, health and wellbeing of the country’s people. This needs to be changed, and all the team at Doctor Frank’s is looking to do what it can to help this change come along this Wednesday in Parliament.

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