Six-year-old Alfie Dingley, hoisted on his dad’s shoulders, was at the head of a small march that advanced on 10 Downing Street, the seat of Great Britain’s government, on March 20. Holding banners reading “Alfie’s Hope,” marchers supported the boy as he presented a petition demanding he be granted a special license to use medical cannabis products to treat his epilepsy.
The petition, signed by more than 370,000 people, was delivered by Dingley and his mother Hannah Deacon. As the Manchester Evening News notes, the delegation also included the family’s chief ally in Parliament — Jeff Smith, representing the Manchester suburb of Withington, who is an outspoken advocate for a sweeping overhaul of Britain’s drug laws.
When they arrived at 10 Downing Street, the family says they met the Prime Minister Theresa May and Minister of State Nick Hurd, in a recent Facebook post, who assured them a resolution would be reached.
“We have now been told that if our doctor applies for a license on compassionate grounds that they will expedite the process as quickly as possible,” the post read. “They cannot assure us of the outcome which is frustrating… however we hope very much so that the outcome will be favourable as we have so much influential support now and also proven by doing the trial in Holland that Alfie needs this medicine desperately.”
The young Dingley suffers up to 150 seizures per month. His attacks decreased dramatically, both in number and severity, when the family traveled to the Netherlands last September to allow him to be treated with cannabis oil. But since he has been back home, and without access to the medicine, he has again been “deteriorating,” his family told the London Times.
In February, Britain’s Home Office turned down the family’s first request for permission to use the cannabis oil preparation. An official Home Office statement said cannabis oil “cannot be practically prescribed, administered or supplied to the public.”
But this resulted in embarrassing media coverage, and earlier this month, the Home Office said it was considering allowing a special trial program to treat Dingley. However, it emphasized that “no decisions have been made.” Policing Minister Nick Hurd said he was “hugely sympathetic” to the child and his family, and was “determined to explore every option.”
But the family decided to press the matter rather than patiently wait while the boy’s health is at stake. Deacon told the BBC News: “This isn’t a time for bureaucracy — this is a time for compassion. I don’t want to break the law by going to Holland and bringing his medical cannabis into the UK illegally. And why should I have to do that?”
Alfie has been hospitalized three times over the past month due to the severity of his symptoms, according to multiple reports.
Also accompanying Alfie’s family in the march on Downing Street was Sir Patrick Stewart, the respected British actor famous for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Sir Patrick himself uses medicinal cannabis products to treat his arthritis while living at his home in California.
Alfie’s case seems particularly ironic given the recent news that the British firm GW Pharmaceuticals’ globe-spanning operations have actually made the United Kingdom the world’s top exporter of legal cannabis. Its industrial-scale cultivation facilities in Norfolk are producing cannabis to make pharmaceutical products, and for export to laboratories and universities around the world. GW is licensed by the Home Office to produce for “research and development” purposes.
One typical commentary, in the UK’s progressive news outlet The Canary, called the denial of Alfie’s right to medicine a “twisted double standard” that betrayed “breathtaking hypocrisy” on the part of the British government.
“Although the UK government does not recognise cannabis-derivatives as ‘having any medicinal benefit’, it will happily allow British companies to profit from using them in medication abroad,” the Canary report stated. And it pointed out that the husband of Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins is personally profiting from GW cannabis cultivation. Atkins is married to Paul Kenward — the managing director of British Sugar, which runs the Norfolk greenhouse operations under contract to GW Pharmaceuticals.
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