It is now legal for select hospital doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to patients, following public outcry on behalf of Alfie Dingley, 7, and Billy Caldwell, 13, two boys living with severe epilepsy who rely heavily on the medication to calm and prevent seizures.
Prior to the legalisation, Alfie would have to travel to the Netherlands for his medication, whereas Billy’s was prescribed by his GP — until his GP notified his mother, Charlotte Caldwell, that the Home Office no longer authorised him to write the prescription.
From there, Ms. Caldwell took things into her own hands. In June, she flew to Toronto, saw a few different specialists, then returned to London with medical-grade cannabis oil, presenting it to customs officials with Billy’s medical records and prescriptions.
But rather than letting Ms. Caldwell and Billy pass through, Heathrow Airport security informed her they would be confiscating Billy’s medicine.
“They handed me a letter from the MP, Nick Hurd, quoting these outdated policies, and I just felt so sad and so angry. I knew the consequences for Billy would be severe pain and maybe death,” Ms. Caldwell wrote for VICE.
“This was simply the bureaucratic torture of a child.”
Both Alfie and Billy have been given special licenses to receive their medications after Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a review of medical cannabis, which confirmed the medicine’s therapeutic effects.
Though cannabis is now legalised for medical purposes, it still cannot be prescribed by GPs.
Rather, patients must contact specialist doctors in cases such as Alfie and Billy’s, where children live with extreme forms of epilepsy, or in cases where adults suffer from multiple sclerosis or side effects of chemotherapy.
Medical cannabis products will only be prescribed in cases that are not being effectively assisted by licensed products, according to VICE.
As for whether or not recreational cannabis is on its way to being legalised, that is still up in the air.
Think-tank Volteface and the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis recently polled the British public about their views on cannabis and found that 59% support the legalisation of recreational cannabis, compared with 31% who oppose.
Despite public support of recreational cannabis, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has stated firmly that “there will be strict controls in place and this is in no way a step towards legalising the recreational use of cannabis.”