MPs are saying that the government should stop taking away medical cannabis from patients as soon as they arrive in the UK.
This comes after airport authorities confiscated the medical cannabis supply of two children suffering from life-threatening epileptic seizures in two separate occasions. The cases had caught the attention of the media and triggered an outpouring of support from cannabis advocates and from other parents.
The seized cannabis products were later returned to the parents of the sick children.
The story of Billy and Teagan
Billy Caldwell, 13, suffers from multiple seizures and the only medication that works for him is cannabis oil. His mother, Charlotte, had to source his supply of medical cannabis from Canada. Unfortunately, last year, six-months’ worth of medication was taken away by authorities at Heathrow Airport.
The boy had to be hospitalized because his condition worsened in the absence of cannabis oil. Because of this, the government conceded and returned his medicine.
Billy’s case was one of the reasons the Home Office had to review its cannabis policies. This later resulted to the UK allowing the prescription and use of medical cannabis under limited conditions. Earlier this year, Billy was finally able to get his first legal dose of cannabis in the UK.
The other kid is 9-year-old Teagan Appleby, who also suffers from severe epilepsy. Teagan and her mother, Emma, had to fly to the Netherlands to get cannabis oil. They were refused a legal prescription in the UK because the girl needs a combination of CBD and the psychoactive THC (which is still a much-prohibited substance).
Border Force confiscated three months’ worth of medical cannabis for Teagan when the family landed at Southend Airport from Amsterdam in April. Her medication was eventually returned after they had to comply with certain requirements, but the same incident happened again in June. This time, it was at Gatwick Airport.
While both stories ended well, with the children getting their medical cannabis back, it had been a horrible and exhausting ordeal for them and their families. Moreover, there is no assurance that it won’t happen again to them and to other families of sick children in the future.
No more confiscations, please
Now, the Parliament’s Health Select Committee is urging the Home Office to stop confiscating medical cannabis from sick children on arrival. The committee said it was cruel to take away the medication from the families of children who are severely ill.
According to Dr. Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health Select Committee, expectations had been “unfairly raised” when the UK legalized medical cannabis and the Department for Health never made it clear to the patients that the legalization and the granting of prescriptions would be selective instead of being widespread.
There has to be a clearer communication that widespread legalization is not the case, Wollaston said.
Basia Zieniewicz of the Cannabis Patient Advocacy Services agrees, saying that confiscating life-saving medicine at the border and threatening parents with criminal sanctions is both “cruel and unethical.” Parents, she said, are merely doing what they believe is in their child’s best interests in terms of their health and well-being.
Zieniewicz added that it is unfair to ask patients and their families to wait before research can be conducted and for clinicians to prescribe. It might take years of waiting before these could happen.
Can’t blame Border Force, government says
In response, the government said that the UK Border Force is merely doing the job they are required to do, which is to enforce the law. And the law says it is illegal to import unlicensed cannabis.
However, a government spokesman said that they will “carefully consider this report” as well as its recommendations.