Media has been abuzz with the story of Charlotte Caldwell and her 12-year-old boy, Billy, who suffers from severe epilepsy. Charlotte uses cannabis oil as treatment for Billy, saying that the oil dramatically reduces his seizures.
The problem, however, is that the cannabis oil, which contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — a psychoactive chemical compound found in the medication — is illegal in the UK. And under current laws, physicians who prescribe cannabis oil as treatment for epilepsy face up to 14 years in prison.
Charlotte had been trying to bring a supply of the oil from Canada into the country. And just last week, Billy’s supply of cannabis oil was confiscated by authorities at Heathrow airport upon their return from Canada.
Charlotte had publicly pleaded for the six-months’ worth of cannabis oil to be returned to her son.
Following the confiscation and with none of his treatment available, Billy’s seizures had intensified and he was admitted to a hospital in London. Billy’s condition led to Home Secretary Sajid Javid approving the return of some of the boy’s cannabis oil, with doctors also making it clear that the situation was a medical emergency.
However, the Home Office released only 20 days’ worth of cannabis oil medication to stop Billy’s seizures. Under the special license, they returned only one of his seven bottles of cannabis oil, which Billy cannot take it home. A spokeswoman for the Home Office explained that Billy was granted an “exceptional license” meant for a “short-term emergency” and that it would still need to be reviewed.
According to Javid, he had used his “exceptional power as Home Secretary” to grant the Caldwells license to use the drug in Chelsea and Westminster hospital.
Now, Charlotte is calling for a meeting with Javid and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt to demand that Billy’s other six bottles of cannabis oil be returned. “What happens after 20 days? Will it be another bottle?” she asked.
According to her, she wants to meet Javid and Hunt, urgently, in a “dignified and democratic way” in order to get assurance that Billy’s meds won’t be removed again, as well as to call for an immediate review of the government’s overall policy on medical marijuana as it affects people who could benefit from it. She said she wants to discuss the issue of legalizing medical cannabis for children who are suffering from similar health conditions as Billy.
Charlotte said she believes that medical cannabis must be made accessible all across the UK under the health department’s supervision.
She added that she would not stand by and allow any other family to endure what she experienced, which she described as “horrific and cruel.”
Furthermore, she noted that there are many more families in the same position and whose medical needs have to be treated with greater attention. Unfortunately, currently, there is no proper medical assessment.
Charlotte said that she is in London and won’t be going anywhere until the matter is in place and that medical cannabis is made accessible to all children who desperately need it.
She acknowledged what Javid has done so far, though, saying that she applauds Javid and is thankful to him for having handed a lifeline for Billy.
There is no word yet as to whether Charlotte’s request for a meeting will be granted.
Former drugs minister Normam Baker described the confiscation of Billy’s medication as “cruel and inhumane.” He is renewing his call for cannabis law reform.
According to Baker, it became clear to him in his time as drugs minister that cannabis possesses useful medical properties and that, for some people, it is the only medication that works.