British officials have given a second young epilepsy patient special permission to bring medical cannabis into the country in violation of current national drug laws. However, so far, such exemptions appear unlikely to be extended to adults and other sick people for whom cannabis could provide relief, renewing calls for the country’s marijuana laws to be reformed.
Along with Billy Caldwell — whose mother forced a stand-off with the British Home Office last month when she publicly and openly flew into Heathrow Airport in London with a vial of cannabis oil from Canada — the plight of Alfie Dingley, a 6-year-old who suffers up to 150 epileptic seizures a month, has galvanized public support behind reforming the country’s drug laws to legalize medical cannabis.
Cannabis oil high in CBD, or cannabidiol, has been shown to effectively treat brain disorders including epilepsy. Cannabis-derived CBD is the main active ingredient in Epidiolex, a prescription drug patented by British-based pharma giant GW Pharmaceuticals, which recently received FDA approval for marketing and distribution in the United States.
Celebrities including Patrick Stewart had joined petitions to UK government officials to change laws to allow Dingley to legally use cannabis. But until Charlotte Caldwell, Billy’s mother, forced the issue with her Heathrow gamble last month, those pleas had gone ignored.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid — seen by some as a possible successor to beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May — last month granted the Caldwells a special exemption to UK drug laws to legally use medical cannabis oil after Billy Caldwell was hospitalized following a brace of seizures.
Dingley’s family had petitioned the UK government for permission to use cannabis in April without success. Only after the Caldwell affair generated headlines across the world did Javid offer similar special permission to Hannah Deacon, Dingley’s mother, to obtain cannabis abroad and bring it into the UK.
According to the BBC, Deacon recently traveled through London City Airport from Amsterdam, where she’d obtained the oil, and was allowed to return to her son’s side.
Like Billy, whose condition had improved after receiving cannabis-based treatment in the United States, Dingley and his family had been forced to relocate to the Netherlands to obtain marijuana-based medicines.
Despite GW Pharmaceuticals’ success in creating cannabis-based medicines — and using cannabis grown in the UK to make these drugs — cannabis remains a banned substance in the UK for ordinary citizens.
Javid’s ad-hoc exemptions for sick people are seen as the first steps towards a loosening of British drug laws, and possibly even the rescheduling of cannabis.
Health experts and government authorities have been tasked with reviewing British drug laws — and making a possible recommendation that they be updated.
And Javid’s office has set up a limited program that would allow other patients to apply for exemptions to use cannabis. However, a steep fee — in excess of $4,000 — merely to apply has meant that few potential patients have signed up, and have renewed calls for the country’s drug laws to be drastically overhauled.
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