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Home secretary announces review into medicinal cannabis use

Thousands of sufferers of drug-resistant conditions have been offered hope after the home secretary launched a review into medicinal uses of cannabis following public pressure from the families of two sick children.

But Sajid Javid ruled out legalising the drug for recreational use following interventions by the former Tory leader William Hague and policing officials.

The review by the Home Office and the chief medical officer, Sally Davies, was announced following high-profile coverage of the cases of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell and six-year-old Alfie Dingley, who both have forms of intractable epilepsy that appear to be eased by the use of cannabis oil.

Following the announcement of the review, Caldwell’s mother, Charlotte Caldwell, said: “At every stage we have mentioned making history, and we have mentioned it because common sense and the power of mummies of sick children has bust the political process wide open and is on the verge of changing thousands of lives by bringing our medicinal cannabis laws in line with many other countries.”

Javid’s decision to review medicinal cannabis marks another major intervention by the secretary of state since his appointment at the end of April. Although some announcements had been set in motion before he took office, he has overseen the fallout from the Windrush scandal, which included the suspension of some immigration enforcement measures, the launch of new counter-terrorism legislation and strategy, and he has removed medics from the skilled migrant cap.

Addressing the House of Commons on the issue of medicinal cannabis, Javid said: “It has become clear to me since becoming home secretary that the position that we find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory.

“It’s not satisfactory for the parents, it’s not satisfactory for the doctors, and it’s not satisfactory for me. I have now come to the conclusion that it is time to review the scheduling of cannabis.

“Before I go into any detail of the review, let me be absolutely clear that this step is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.

“This government has absolutely no plans to legalise cannabis and the penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.

“We will not set a dangerous precedent or weaken our ability to keep dangerous drugs off our streets.”

Cannabis is currently a schedule 1 drug, meaning it is currently thought to have no therapeutic value and cannot be lawfully possessed or prescribed. It may be used for the purposes of research but a Home Office licence is required.

Cannabis oil use chart

The review will be in two parts. Davies will consider the evidence available for the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medicines. In the next step, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will provide an assessment based on the balance of harms and public health needs, of what, if anything, should be rescheduled.

The home secretary said if the review identified significant medical and therapeutic benefits, then cannabis could be rescheduled for medicinal use.

Alfie and Billy are among around 20,000 children who do not respond to the medication prescribed by the NHS.

Dingley’s parents said his seizures almost disappeared after he was prescribed an EU-certified cannabis medicine in Holland.

They lived there for six months until the parents, who had spent £30,000 on his treatment, ran out of money.

Hannah Deacon, Alfie’s mother, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday: “Before we went to Holland he was in hospital every week having intravenous steroids and other unlicensed medication to stop his severe clusters of hundreds of seizures.

“I didn’t know my child for two years, all I knew was A&E, ambulances, purple seizures, panic, fear. That was my life. The miracle was that [cannabis-based drugs] worked and it changed his life.”

Similarly, Charlotte Caldwell, Billy’s mother, credited cannabis oil as “life-saving” and said its prescription caused Billy to go around 300 days seizure-free.

After they returned to the UK they both launched high-profile campaigns for their children to be able to have access to their anti-epileptic medicine. Their cases also renewed the wider debate over legalisation.

In an article for the Telegraph on Tuesday, William Hague, the former leader of the Conservative party, urged Theresa May to legalise cannabis.

He said that the “battle [against cannabis] is effectively over” and that the UK’s drug policy is “inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date”.

Advocating a major policy change, Hague said it was delusional to think cannabis could be “driven off the streets”.

Hague claimed that criminal gangs were the chief beneficiaries of the drug remaining illegal and that many police forces had “stopped worrying about it”.

Cannabis deaths chart

It is understood that around half a dozen police forces have de-prioritised the enforcement of cannabis-related crimes.

Accordingly, police chiefs came out in support of Hague’s remarks in respect to the war on drugs.

“Hague is right that the war on drugs is not being won,” said David Jamieson, the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands. “We need a fresh approach and to treat people with addictions as having a medical problem, not just as an enforcement issue.”

“Decisions on the harm of drugs should not be taken by the Home Office, but by medical professionals at the Department of Health,” Jamieson, who served as a government minister between 1997 and 2005, added.

Ron Hogg, the Durham police, crime and victims’ commissioner, echoed his remarks.

“Lord Hague’s statement that the war on drugs has failed echoes the call for reform of the drug laws which I have been making for some time,” he said.

Durham is understood to have adopted the most liberal approach to policing drug offences in the country and is focused on the need to reduce drug-related harm. It is the only force in the country to be rated as outstanding by official inspectors.

“Drug users should be able to seek effective treatment without fear of prosecution, and control of the drugs market should be taken out of the hands of organised crime groups,” Hogg said.

There were 136,352 recorded drug offences in England and Wales in 2016/17. Just under 76% of all drug offences recorded were for the possession of cannabis and this is likely to be a major drain on police budgets.

The government, however, insisted it would not decriminalise cannabis.

“In terms of decriminalising cannabis there are no plans in that respect,” May’s spokesman said. “The evidence is very clear that cannabis can cause serious harm when it is misused.”

The Home Office also issued a strong rebuttal which reiterated that the government “has no intention of reviewing the classification of cannabis” and “it will remain a class B drug”.

Home secretary announces review into medicinal cannabis use

Thousands of sufferers of drug-resistant conditions have been offered hope after the home secretary launched a review into medicinal uses of cannabis following public pressure from the families of two sick children.

But Sajid Javid ruled out legalising the drug for recreational use following interventions by the former Tory leader William Hague and policing officials.

The review by the Home Office and the chief medical officer, Sally Davies, was announced following high-profile coverage of the cases of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell and six-year-old Alfie Dingley, who both have forms of intractable epilepsy that appear to be eased by the use of cannabis oil.

Following the announcement of the review, Caldwell’s mother, Charlotte Caldwell, said: “At every stage we have mentioned making history, and we have mentioned it because common sense and the power of mummies of sick children has bust the political process wide open and is on the verge of changing thousands of lives by bringing our medicinal cannabis laws in line with many other countries.”

Javid’s decision to review medicinal cannabis marks another major intervention by the secretary of state since his appointment at the end of April. Although some announcements had been set in motion before he took office, he has overseen the fallout from the Windrush scandal, which included the suspension of some immigration enforcement measures, the launch of new counter-terrorism legislation and strategy, and he has removed medics from the skilled migrant cap.

Addressing the House of Commons on the issue of medicinal cannabis, Javid said: “It has become clear to me since becoming home secretary that the position that we find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory.

“It’s not satisfactory for the parents, it’s not satisfactory for the doctors, and it’s not satisfactory for me. I have now come to the conclusion that it is time to review the scheduling of cannabis.

“Before I go into any detail of the review, let me be absolutely clear that this step is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.

“This government has absolutely no plans to legalise cannabis and the penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.

“We will not set a dangerous precedent or weaken our ability to keep dangerous drugs off our streets.”

Cannabis is currently a schedule 1 drug, meaning it is currently thought to have no therapeutic value and cannot be lawfully possessed or prescribed. It may be used for the purposes of research but a Home Office licence is required.

Cannabis oil use chart

The review will be in two parts. Davies will consider the evidence available for the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medicines. In the next step, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will provide an assessment based on the balance of harms and public health needs, of what, if anything, should be rescheduled.

The home secretary said if the review identified significant medical and therapeutic benefits, then cannabis could be rescheduled for medicinal use.

Alfie and Billy are among around 20,000 children who do not respond to the medication prescribed by the NHS.

Dingley’s parents said his seizures almost disappeared after he was prescribed an EU-certified cannabis medicine in Holland.

They lived there for six months until the parents, who had spent £30,000 on his treatment, ran out of money.

Hannah Deacon, Alfie’s mother, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday: “Before we went to Holland he was in hospital every week having intravenous steroids and other unlicensed medication to stop his severe clusters of hundreds of seizures.

“I didn’t know my child for two years, all I knew was A&E, ambulances, purple seizures, panic, fear. That was my life. The miracle was that [cannabis-based drugs] worked and it changed his life.”

Similarly, Charlotte Caldwell, Billy’s mother, credited cannabis oil as “life-saving” and said its prescription caused Billy to go around 300 days seizure-free.

After they returned to the UK they both launched high-profile campaigns for their children to be able to have access to their anti-epileptic medicine. Their cases also renewed the wider debate over legalisation.

In an article for the Telegraph on Tuesday, William Hague, the former leader of the Conservative party, urged Theresa May to legalise cannabis.

He said that the “battle [against cannabis] is effectively over” and that the UK’s drug policy is “inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date”.

Advocating a major policy change, Hague said it was delusional to think cannabis could be “driven off the streets”.

Hague claimed that criminal gangs were the chief beneficiaries of the drug remaining illegal and that many police forces had “stopped worrying about it”.

Cannabis deaths chart

It is understood that around half a dozen police forces have de-prioritised the enforcement of cannabis-related crimes.

Accordingly, police chiefs came out in support of Hague’s remarks in respect to the war on drugs.

“Hague is right that the war on drugs is not being won,” said David Jamieson, the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands. “We need a fresh approach and to treat people with addictions as having a medical problem, not just as an enforcement issue.”

“Decisions on the harm of drugs should not be taken by the Home Office, but by medical professionals at the Department of Health,” Jamieson, who served as a government minister between 1997 and 2005, added.

Ron Hogg, the Durham police, crime and victims’ commissioner, echoed his remarks.

“Lord Hague’s statement that the war on drugs has failed echoes the call for reform of the drug laws which I have been making for some time,” he said.

Durham is understood to have adopted the most liberal approach to policing drug offences in the country and is focused on the need to reduce drug-related harm. It is the only force in the country to be rated as outstanding by official inspectors.

“Drug users should be able to seek effective treatment without fear of prosecution, and control of the drugs market should be taken out of the hands of organised crime groups,” Hogg said.

There were 136,352 recorded drug offences in England and Wales in 2016/17. Just under 76% of all drug offences recorded were for the possession of cannabis and this is likely to be a major drain on police budgets.

The government, however, insisted it would not decriminalise cannabis.

“In terms of decriminalising cannabis there are no plans in that respect,” May’s spokesman said. “The evidence is very clear that cannabis can cause serious harm when it is misused.”

The Home Office also issued a strong rebuttal which reiterated that the government “has no intention of reviewing the classification of cannabis” and “it will remain a class B drug”.

Home Office returns cannabis oil for boy’s epilepsy treatment

The Home Office has backed down over its refusal to release medicinal cannabis oil that it had confiscated from the family of a severely epileptic boy.

Sajid Javid said he had used an exceptional power as home secretary to issue a licence for Billy Caldwell to be treated with the oil as a matter of urgency.

Billy’s mother, Charlotte Caldwell from County Tyrone, said her family had “achieved the impossible” in getting the oil back, and criticised the “dreadful, horrific, cruel experience” her son had suffered.

Billy’s cannabis oil was confiscated at Heathrow Airport on Monday. It contains a psychoactive substance called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is illegal in the UK but available elsewhere, and had kept his epilepsy at bay.

After it was taken from him Billy suffered two seizures that other medicines could not control and he was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital by ambulance on Friday.

Following Billy’s admission, the Home Office came under intense pressure to allow him to be prescribed the medicine that had successfully controlled his seizures for 300 days.

“This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way,” Javid said.

His move has, however, failed to dispel the strong feelings that the case has generated. Many experts believe Billy’s story reveals the inadequacy of many of Britain’s drug laws.

“The case is the product of a failed 50-year prohibitionist approach to recreational cannabis that has actually increased use harms and denied medical progress,” said David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London.

“Cannabis oil is a medicine in many countries, but not in the UK because the Home Office say it is not so. Even though it clearly has revolutionised his health, and is – for Billy – a proven medicine, no UK doctor can prescribe it. That is absurd and inhumane.”

Nutt’s view was backed by the Caldwell family’s MP, Órfhlaith Begley of Sinn Féin. “Billy should never have been put in that position. The treatment was clearly working for him and he deteriorated badly once it ended, yet it still took intense lobbying to get the Home Office to reverse this cruel decision,” she said.

Billy’s mother also vowed to keep up her fight to allow others in the UK to have access to the medication. “My experience leaves me in no doubt that the Home Office can no longer play a role in the administration of medication for sick children in our country,” she said. “Children are dying in our country and it needs to stop now.”

The decision to allow Billy treatment marks the first the first time that cannabis oil containing THC has been legally prescribed in the UK since it was made illegal in 1971.

A doctor in Northern Ireland had prescribed cannabis oil for Billy last year. It was the first time a child had been issued the substance on the NHS. The Home Office, however, ordered the doctor to stop prescribing the medicine as it was “unlawful to possess Schedule 1 drugs”. This prompted the Caldwells to go to Canada to obtain the medicine.

When they returned with six months’ worth of cannabis oil, it was confiscated and a minister told them it would not be returned.

The Home Office then recommended three neurologists who could help manage Billy’s transition off cannabis oil, but none subsequently saw him. Caldwell said one of the experts told her they did not have the time, another was on holiday and the third did not return her calls.

George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP)

We need to change the law. Treating #CannabisMedicine oils for epilepsy like recreational street cannabis is criminalising patients and fuelling a dangerous black market. #MedicalCannabis @VoltefaceHub @BBCNews @SkyNews https://t.co/EMRaopHKdD

June 16, 2018

Home Office returns cannabis oil for boy’s epilepsy treatment

The Home Office has released the medicinal cannabis oil it confiscated from
Billy Caldwell’s family, who had been using it to treat his severe epilepsy.

The government backdown came shortly after the 12-year-old’s mother, Charlotte, said she was confident the Home Office would grant a special licence so her son could be treated with the anti-epileptic cannabis medicine.

Sajid Javid said on Saturday he had used an exceptional power as home secretary to urgently issue a licence for Billy to be treated. “This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way,” he said.

“We have been in close contact with Billy’s medical team overnight and my decision is based on the advice of senior clinicians who have made clear this is a medical emergency. The policing minister met with the family on Monday and since then has been working to reach an urgent solution.”

The Home Office had been under intense pressure to allow Billy to be prescribed the medicine that had kept his seizures at bay for around 300 days before his doctor was forced to stop the prescriptions.

Billy had two seizures on Friday night after opiate-based medicines failed to control his condition, and was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital by ambulance.

Caldwell said they had “achieved the impossible” and criticised the “dreadful, horrific, cruel experience” that had deeply affected her son. “His little body has been completely broken and his little mind,” she said.

“I truly believe that somewhere in the Home Office there’s someone with a heart and I truly believe that Billy was pulling on their heart strings.”

Caldwell vowed to keep up her fight to allow others in the UK to have access to the medication they need. “My experience leaves me in no doubt that the Home Office can no longer play a role in the administration of medication for sick children in our country,” she said. “Children are dying in our country and it needs to stop now.”

The Caldwells’ MP, Órfhlaith Begley of Sinn Féin, welcomed Javid’s decision.

“Billy should never have been put in that position. The treatment was clearly working for him and he deteriorated badly once it ended, yet it still took intense lobbying to get the Home Office to reverse this cruel decision,” she said.

“I will continue to engage with the Home Office and the health authorities to ensure he can access his medication in the longer term so there is no repeat of the trauma he has suffered over recent weeks.”

The decision to allow Billy to be prescribed the treatment is the first time that cannabis oil containing THC, the psychoactive component, has been prescribed in the UK since it was made illegal in 1971.

George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP)

We need to change the law. Treating #CannabisMedicine oils for epilepsy like recreational street cannabis is criminalising patients and fuelling a dangerous black market. #MedicalCannabis @VoltefaceHub @BBCNews @SkyNews https://t.co/EMRaopHKdD

June 16, 2018

A doctor in Northern Ireland had prescribed cannabis oil for Billy last year, when it became clear it was the only effective treatment. It was the first time a child had been issued the substance on the NHS.

The Home Office, however, ordered him to stop prescribing the medicine because it was “unlawful to possess Schedule 1 drugs”.

This prompted the Caldwells to go to Canada to obtain the medicine.

When they returned with six months’ worth of cannabis oil, it was confiscated and a minister told them that it would not be returned.

The Home Office then recommended three neurologists who could help manage Billy’s transition off cannabis oil, but none subsequently saw him. Caldwell said one of the experts told her they did not have the time, another was on holiday and the third did not return her calls.

Caldwell, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, had been anxious to highlight what she said was the wider injustice of epileptic children not having access to medical cannabis.

Attention is likely to now turn to other families with children who have similar conditions to Billy. Many have followed the Caldwell case closely and are calling for laws to be relaxed to make cannabis medicine easier to access in the UK.

Home Office returns cannabis oil for boy’s epilepsy treatment

The Home Office has released the medicinal cannabis oil it confiscated from
Billy Caldwell’s family, who had been using it to treat his severe epilepsy.

The government backdown came shortly after the 12-year-old’s mother, Charlotte, said she was confident the Home Office would grant a special licence so her son could be treated with the anti-epileptic cannabis medicine.

Sajid Javid said on Saturday he had used an exceptional power as home secretary to urgently issue a licence for Billy to be treated. “This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way,” he said.

“We have been in close contact with Billy’s medical team overnight and my decision is based on the advice of senior clinicians who have made clear this is a medical emergency. The policing minister met with the family on Monday and since then has been working to reach an urgent solution.”

The Home Office had been under intense pressure to allow Billy to be prescribed the medicine that had kept his seizures at bay for around 300 days before his doctor was forced to stop the prescriptions.

Billy had two seizures on Friday night after opiate-based medicines failed to control his condition, and was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital by ambulance.

Caldwell said they had “achieved the impossible” and criticised the “dreadful, horrific, cruel experience” that had deeply affected her son. “His little body has been completely broken and his little mind,” she said.

“I truly believe that somewhere in the Home Office there’s someone with a heart and I truly believe that Billy was pulling on their heart strings.”

Caldwell vowed to keep up her fight to allow others in the UK to have access to the medication they need. “My experience leaves me in no doubt that the Home Office can no longer play a role in the administration of medication for sick children in our country,” she said. “Children are dying in our country and it needs to stop now.”

The Caldwells’ MP, Órfhlaith Begley of Sinn Féin, welcomed Javid’s decision.

“Billy should never have been put in that position. The treatment was clearly working for him and he deteriorated badly once it ended, yet it still took intense lobbying to get the Home Office to reverse this cruel decision,” she said.

“I will continue to engage with the Home Office and the health authorities to ensure he can access his medication in the longer term so there is no repeat of the trauma he has suffered over recent weeks.”

The decision to allow Billy to be prescribed the treatment is the first time that cannabis oil containing THC, the psychoactive component, has been prescribed in the UK since it was made illegal in 1971.

George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP)

We need to change the law. Treating #CannabisMedicine oils for epilepsy like recreational street cannabis is criminalising patients and fuelling a dangerous black market. #MedicalCannabis @VoltefaceHub @BBCNews @SkyNews https://t.co/EMRaopHKdD

June 16, 2018

A doctor in Northern Ireland had prescribed cannabis oil for Billy last year, when it became clear it was the only effective treatment. It was the first time a child had been issued the substance on the NHS.

The Home Office, however, ordered him to stop prescribing the medicine because it was “unlawful to possess Schedule 1 drugs”.

This prompted the Caldwells to go to Canada to obtain the medicine.

When they returned with six months’ worth of cannabis oil, it was confiscated and a minister told them that it would not be returned.

The Home Office then recommended three neurologists who could help manage Billy’s transition off cannabis oil, but none subsequently saw him. Caldwell said one of the experts told her they did not have the time, another was on holiday and the third did not return her calls.

Caldwell, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, had been anxious to highlight what she said was the wider injustice of epileptic children not having access to medical cannabis.

Attention is likely to now turn to other families with children who have similar conditions to Billy. Many have followed the Caldwell case closely and are calling for laws to be relaxed to make cannabis medicine easier to access in the UK.

Home Office returns cannabis oil for boy’s epilepsy treatment

The Home Office has released the medicinal cannabis oil it confiscated from
Billy Caldwell’s family, who had been using it to treat his severe epilepsy.

The government backdown came shortly after the 12-year-old’s mother, Charlotte, said she was confident the Home Office would grant a special licence so her son could be treated with the anti-epileptic cannabis medicine.

Sajid Javid said on Saturday he had used an exceptional power as home secretary to urgently issue a licence for Billy to be treated. “This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way,” he said.

“We have been in close contact with Billy’s medical team overnight and my decision is based on the advice of senior clinicians who have made clear this is a medical emergency. The policing minister met with the family on Monday and since then has been working to reach an urgent solution.”

The Home Office had been under intense pressure to allow Billy to be prescribed the medicine that had kept his seizures at bay for around 300 days before his doctor was forced to stop the prescriptions.

Billy had two seizures on Friday night after opiate-based medicines failed to control his condition, and was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital by ambulance.

Caldwell said they had “achieved the impossible” and criticised the “dreadful, horrific, cruel experience” that had deeply affected her son. “His little body has been completely broken and his little mind,” she said.

“I truly believe that somewhere in the Home Office there’s someone with a heart and I truly believe that Billy was pulling on their heart strings.”

Caldwell vowed to keep up her fight to allow others in the UK to have access to the medication they need. “My experience leaves me in no doubt that the Home Office can no longer play a role in the administration of medication for sick children in our country,” she said. “Children are dying in our country and it needs to stop now.”

The Caldwells’ MP, Órfhlaith Begley of Sinn Féin, welcomed Javid’s decision.

“Billy should never have been put in that position. The treatment was clearly working for him and he deteriorated badly once it ended, yet it still took intense lobbying to get the Home Office to reverse this cruel decision,” she said.

“I will continue to engage with the Home Office and the health authorities to ensure he can access his medication in the longer term so there is no repeat of the trauma he has suffered over recent weeks.”

The decision to allow Billy to be prescribed the treatment is the first time that cannabis oil containing THC, the psychoactive component, has been prescribed in the UK since it was made illegal in 1971.

George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP)

We need to change the law. Treating #CannabisMedicine oils for epilepsy like recreational street cannabis is criminalising patients and fuelling a dangerous black market. #MedicalCannabis @VoltefaceHub @BBCNews @SkyNews https://t.co/EMRaopHKdD

June 16, 2018

A doctor in Northern Ireland had prescribed cannabis oil for Billy last year, when it became clear it was the only effective treatment. It was the first time a child had been issued the substance on the NHS.

The Home Office, however, ordered him to stop prescribing the medicine because it was “unlawful to possess Schedule 1 drugs”.

This prompted the Caldwells to go to Canada to obtain the medicine.

When they returned with six months’ worth of cannabis oil, it was confiscated and a minister told them that it would not be returned.

The Home Office then recommended three neurologists who could help manage Billy’s transition off cannabis oil, but none subsequently saw him. Caldwell said one of the experts told her they did not have the time, another was on holiday and the third did not return her calls.

Caldwell, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, had been anxious to highlight what she said was the wider injustice of epileptic children not having access to medical cannabis.

Attention is likely to now turn to other families with children who have similar conditions to Billy. Many have followed the Caldwell case closely and are calling for laws to be relaxed to make cannabis medicine easier to access in the UK.

Home Office returns cannabis oil for boy’s epilepsy treatment

The Home Office has released the medicinal cannabis oil it confiscated from
Billy Caldwell’s family, who used it to treat his severe epilepsy.

The government backdown came shortly after the 12-year-old’s mother, Charlotte, said she was confident the Home Office would grant a special licence so her son could be treated with the anti-epileptic cannabis medicine.

Sajid Javid said on Saturday he had used an exceptional power as home secretary to urgently issue a licence for Billy to be treated with cannabis oil.

“This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way,” he said.

“We have been in close contact with Billy’s medical team overnight and my decision is based on the advice of senior clinicians who have made clear this is a medical emergency.

“The policing minister met with the family on Monday and since then has been working to reach an urgent solution.”

The Home Office had been under intense pressure to allow Billy to be prescribed the medicine that had kept his seizures at bay for around 300 days before his doctor was forced to stop the prescriptions.

Billy had two seizures on Friday night after opiate-based medicines failed to control his condition, and was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital by ambulance.

Before the confiscated oil was returned, his mother said: “The Home Office and myself and our team have been working extremely hard together throughout the night to make this happen, which is truly amazing.

“But there can only be one conclusion here: that my little boy, my beautiful sweet little boy, who has a life-threatening form of epilepsy, and one seizure can kill him, he needs his medicine back today.

“There’s a lot of bureaucracy around it and we’re working towards obviously getting his medicine and just it’s one step at a time. But we’re confident that the Home Office is working with us and that we’re going to get this done.”

The decision to allow Billy to be prescribed the treatment, is the first time that cannabis oil containing THC, the psychoactive component, has been prescribed in the UK since it was made illegal in 1971.

George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP)

We need to change the law. Treating #CannabisMedicine oils for epilepsy like recreational street cannabis is criminalising patients and fuelling a dangerous black market. #MedicalCannabis @VoltefaceHub @BBCNews @SkyNews https://t.co/EMRaopHKdD

June 16, 2018

The six-month cache of anti-epileptic medicine taken from, and now returned to, the family was understood to have been held at the Home Office.

A doctor in Northern Ireland had prescribed cannabis oil for Billy last year, when it became clear it was the only effective treatment. It was the first time a child had been issued the substance on the NHS.

However, the Home Office ordered him to stop prescribing the medicine as it was “unlawful to possess Schedule 1 drugs”.

This prompted the Caldwells to go to Canada to obtain the medicine.

When they returned with six months’ worth of anti-epileptic cannabis oil, it was confiscated and they were told by a minister that it would not be returned.

The Home Office then recommended three neurologists who could help manage Billy’s transition off cannabis oil, but none subsequently saw him. Caldwell said one of the experts told her they did not have the time, another was on holiday, and the third did not return her calls.

Home Office looks at allowing cannabis oil prescription for epileptic boy

The Home Office has said it will “carefully consider” allowing a 12-year-old boy to be prescribed cannabis oil after he was admitted to hospital with “life-threatening” seizures following the confiscation of his supply.

Billy Caldwell had his anti-epileptic medicine confiscated at Heathrow airport on Monday. If the decision is made to permit him to have the treatment, it would be the first time that cannabis oil containing THC was legally prescribed in the UK since it was made illegal in 1971.

Late on Friday night, Billy’s family were trying to find a clinician with knowledge of his condition to recommend the prescription of cannabis medicine.

His mother, Charlotte Caldwell, said: “Finally I’m hearing signs that the Home Office appreciate the severity of Billy’s condition, and are showing a willingness to act humanely.”

In a statement, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Billy is in the care of medical professionals who are best placed to assess the care and treatment that he requires.

“The Home Office is contacting Billy’s medical team. If the team treating Billy advise a particular course of urgent action, the Home Office will carefully consider what options are available to help facilitate that advice.”

On Friday afternoon, Billy was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital in west London in an ambulance after experiencing uncontrollable seizures.

“Billy has had back-to-back seizures today,” his mother said. “On his medication, which included the vital but banned THC component, he was seizure-free for more than 300 days.”

Caldwell said doctors in Canada and Northern Ireland familiar with the case had described her son’s situation as life-threatening. She said the Home Office would be held accountable if her son died.

Billy had been placed on cannabidiol (CBD) oil, along with opiate-based medication, after he was forced to stop taking cannabis oil, but he failed to respond positively to the treatment and his health deteriorated as his seizures gradually resumed.

The family said the 12-year-old can now be treated only with hospital-administered medication.

Speaking from hospital, Caldwell told Sky News: “[Billy’s] out of the seizure but I cannot administer any more rescue medicine for him at home. He’s been admitted and they’re keeping him in hospital simply because Billy’s seizures are life-threatening … one seizure can kill him.”

Earlier on Friday, Caldwell criticised the government for effectively forcing them to leave the UK.

“No mother should be made to flee the country to keep their child alive,” she said. The pair have spent about four of the past 12 years abroad because cannabis oil is illegal in the UK.

On Monday they had six months’ worth of anti-epileptic medicine confiscated by customs agents when they arrived at Heathrow from Toronto. Caldwell was invited to meet the Home Office minister Nick Hurd, who told her that it would not be returned, despite her pleas.

“It has to be the most frightening situation that a mother could ever be put in,” Caldwell told the Guardian, describing how she and Billy had been forced to leave their home, friends and family in order to access the potentially life-saving medicine.

“He’s undergone countless administrations of anti-epileptic pharmaceutical drugs which have never worked and have upset his entire system,” Caldwell said. “The side-effects left him so depleted that he couldn’t even lift his head or pick up a toy.”

The anti-epilepsy drugs prescribed by the NHS often cause uncontrollable tremors, hair loss, swollen gums and rashes, among other adverse effects. Feeling that she had no choice but to seek treatment for her child abroad, Caldwell found a doctor in the US in September 2007 who “saved Billy’s life” by weaning him off anti-epileptic pharmaceutical drugs, which she says were aggravating his seizures.

The doctor also placed him on a ketogenic diet – a high-fat, low-carbohydrate food plan – that helped his seizures to rapidly subside.

Eight years later, in June 2016, the seizures returned. They travelled to California again in September that year, until their money ran out eight months later and they came back to their home in Northern Ireland.

In March 2017 they walked 150 miles in eight days, from their home to the hospital, to demonstrate the incredible improvement in Billy’s condition after the cannabis treatment.

Charlotte Caldwell and Billy at Heathrow, where they had a supply of cannabis oil confiscated


Charlotte Caldwell and Billy at Heathrow, where they had a supply of cannabis oil confiscated. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

A doctor in Northern Ireland prescribed him the oil, since it was clear it was the only effective treatment. This was the first time a child had ever been issued the substance on the NHS.

The oil contained CBD and also THC the psychoactive constituent of cannabis that gets users high. In October 2016, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued an opinion that products containing CBD used for medical purposes are medicine. However, medicines containing the raw form of THC remain illegal.

The government’s current position is that THC has no recognised medicinal or legitimate uses beyond potential research.

Although some children with epilepsy respond positively to CBD, the conditions of others, such as Billy, respond only to THC-derived products. And there is growing evidence of the benefits of prescribing medicinal cannabis.

After about 300 days without a seizure, the Home Office recently ordered the doctor to stop prescribing the oil, prompting Caldwell to seek treatment in Canada, which is preparing to legalise cannabis.

The case has shone a light on a drug policy that critics see as outdated and has provoked widespread demands for urgent reform, as well as calls for an exception to be made for Billy until legislation can be considered.

A woman gives a child cannabis oil for medical reasons in Peru, which legalised the substance for medicinal use in 2017


A woman gives a child cannabis oil for medical reasons in Peru, which legalised the substance for medicinal use in 2017. Photograph: Guadalupe Pardo/Reuters

Caldwell said she doubted whether she or Hurd would be arrested if the minister decided to “do the right thing” and allow Billy to have his anti-epileptic medication.

“Surely common sense should prevail,” she said, pointing to the public support for the legalisation of medical cannabis, and the fact that police in some parts of the country had deprioritised cannabis offences.

“To me, this is not an illegal or controlled substance, this is my little boy’s medicine. Even if you drank six months’ worth of this medicine, you wouldn’t get high because the THC content is so low.”

There are around 63,400 children with epilepsy in the UK and a third of those do not respond to the medication prescribed by the NHS. Some 1,150 people died of epilepsy-related causes in 2009.

Billy, who also has severe autism, cannot talk and requires 24/7 care, enjoys riding his pony Paddy, often goes swimming and attends a special needs school.

Asked how Billy had handled a week of intense media attention, Caldwell said he had been “a wee bit out of sorts” and that “he knows that something is going on”.

On Tuesday morning he had his first seizure in almost a year.

On the same day, a group of pro-reform Tory MPs said that medicinal cannabis could be on sale within a year. But this could be too late for Billy. “The fear that Billy will die without his medication has been my overriding emotion this week,” said Caldwell. “I think that fear is keeping me going.”

Home Office looks at allowing cannabis oil prescription for epileptic boy

The Home Office has said it will “carefully consider” allowing a 12-year-old boy to be prescribed cannabis oil after he was admitted to hospital with “life-threatening” seizures following the confiscation of his supply.

Billy Caldwell had his anti-epileptic medicine confiscated at Heathrow airport on Monday. If the decision is made to permit him to have the treatment, it would be the first time that cannabis oil containing THC was legally prescribed in the UK since it was made illegal in 1971.

Late on Friday night, Billy’s family were trying to find a clinician with knowledge of his condition to recommend the prescription of cannabis medicine.

His mother, Charlotte Caldwell, said: “Finally I’m hearing signs that the Home Office appreciate the severity of Billy’s condition, and are showing a willingness to act humanely.”

In a statement, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Billy is in the care of medical professionals who are best placed to assess the care and treatment that he requires.

“The Home Office is contacting Billy’s medical team. If the team treating Billy advise a particular course of urgent action, the Home Office will carefully consider what options are available to help facilitate that advice.”

On Friday afternoon, Billy was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital in west London in an ambulance after experiencing uncontrollable seizures.

“Billy has had back-to-back seizures today,” his mother said. “On his medication, which included the vital but banned THC component, he was seizure-free for more than 300 days.”

Caldwell said doctors in Canada and Northern Ireland familiar with the case had described her son’s situation as life-threatening. She said the Home Office would be held accountable if her son died.

Billy had been placed on cannabidiol (CBD) oil, along with opiate-based medication, after he was forced to stop taking cannabis oil, but he failed to respond positively to the treatment and his health deteriorated as his seizures gradually resumed.

The family said the 12-year-old can now be treated only with hospital-administered medication.

Speaking from hospital, Caldwell told Sky News: “[Billy’s] out of the seizure but I cannot administer any more rescue medicine for him at home. He’s been admitted and they’re keeping him in hospital simply because Billy’s seizures are life-threatening … one seizure can kill him.”

Earlier on Friday, Caldwell criticised the government for effectively forcing them to leave the UK.

“No mother should be made to flee the country to keep their child alive,” she said. The pair have spent about four of the past 12 years abroad because cannabis oil is illegal in the UK.

On Monday they had six months’ worth of anti-epileptic medicine confiscated by customs agents when they arrived at Heathrow from Toronto. Caldwell was invited to meet the Home Office minister Nick Hurd, who told her that it would not be returned, despite her pleas.

“It has to be the most frightening situation that a mother could ever be put in,” Caldwell told the Guardian, describing how she and Billy had been forced to leave their home, friends and family in order to access the potentially life-saving medicine.

“He’s undergone countless administrations of anti-epileptic pharmaceutical drugs which have never worked and have upset his entire system,” Caldwell said. “The side-effects left him so depleted that he couldn’t even lift his head or pick up a toy.”

The anti-epilepsy drugs prescribed by the NHS often cause uncontrollable tremors, hair loss, swollen gums and rashes, among other adverse effects. Feeling that she had no choice but to seek treatment for her child abroad, Caldwell found a doctor in the US in September 2007 who “saved Billy’s life” by weaning him off anti-epileptic pharmaceutical drugs, which she says were aggravating his seizures.

The doctor also placed him on a ketogenic diet – a high-fat, low-carbohydrate food plan – that helped his seizures to rapidly subside.

Eight years later, in June 2016, the seizures returned. They travelled to California again in September that year, until their money ran out eight months later and they came back to their home in Northern Ireland.

In March 2017 they walked 150 miles in eight days, from their home to the hospital, to demonstrate the incredible improvement in Billy’s condition after the cannabis treatment.

Charlotte Caldwell and Billy at Heathrow, where they had a supply of cannabis oil confiscated


Charlotte Caldwell and Billy at Heathrow, where they had a supply of cannabis oil confiscated. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

A doctor in Northern Ireland prescribed him the oil, since it was clear it was the only effective treatment. This was the first time a child had ever been issued the substance on the NHS.

The oil contained CBD and also THC the psychoactive constituent of cannabis that gets users high. In October 2016, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued an opinion that products containing CBD used for medical purposes are medicine. However, medicines containing the raw form of THC remain illegal.

The government’s current position is that THC has no recognised medicinal or legitimate uses beyond potential research.

Although some children with epilepsy respond positively to CBD, the conditions of others, such as Billy, respond only to THC-derived products. And there is growing evidence of the benefits of prescribing medicinal cannabis.

After about 300 days without a seizure, the Home Office recently ordered the doctor to stop prescribing the oil, prompting Caldwell to seek treatment in Canada, which is preparing to legalise cannabis.

The case has shone a light on a drug policy that critics see as outdated and has provoked widespread demands for urgent reform, as well as calls for an exception to be made for Billy until legislation can be considered.

A woman gives a child cannabis oil for medical reasons in Peru, which legalised the substance for medicinal use in 2017


A woman gives a child cannabis oil for medical reasons in Peru, which legalised the substance for medicinal use in 2017. Photograph: Guadalupe Pardo/Reuters

Caldwell said she doubted whether she or Hurd would be arrested if the minister decided to “do the right thing” and allow Billy to have his anti-epileptic medication.

“Surely common sense should prevail,” she said, pointing to the public support for the legalisation of medical cannabis, and the fact that police in some parts of the country had deprioritised cannabis offences.

“To me, this is not an illegal or controlled substance, this is my little boy’s medicine. Even if you drank six months’ worth of this medicine, you wouldn’t get high because the THC content is so low.”

There are around 63,400 children with epilepsy in the UK and a third of those do not respond to the medication prescribed by the NHS. Some 1,150 people died of epilepsy-related causes in 2009.

Billy, who also has severe autism, cannot talk and requires 24/7 care, enjoys riding his pony Paddy, often goes swimming and attends a special needs school.

Asked how Billy had handled a week of intense media attention, Caldwell said he had been “a wee bit out of sorts” and that “he knows that something is going on”.

On Tuesday morning he had his first seizure in almost a year.

On the same day, a group of pro-reform Tory MPs said that medicinal cannabis could be on sale within a year. But this could be too late for Billy. “The fear that Billy will die without his medication has been my overriding emotion this week,” said Caldwell. “I think that fear is keeping me going.”

Home Office looks at allowing cannabis oil prescription for epileptic boy

The Home Office has said it will “carefully consider” allowing a 12-year-old boy to be prescribed cannabis oil after he was admitted to hospital with “life-threatening” seizures following the confiscation of his supply.

Billy Caldwell had his anti-epileptic medicine confiscated at Heathrow airport on Monday. If the decision is made to permit him to have the treatment, it would be the first time that cannabis oil containing THC was legally prescribed in the UK since it was made illegal in 1971.

Late on Friday night, Billy’s family were trying to find a clinician with knowledge of his condition to recommend the prescription of cannabis medicine.

His mother, Charlotte Caldwell, said: “Finally I’m hearing signs that the Home Office appreciate the severity of Billy’s condition, and are showing a willingness to act humanely.”

In a statement, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Billy is in the care of medical professionals who are best placed to assess the care and treatment that he requires.

“The Home Office is contacting Billy’s medical team. If the team treating Billy advise a particular course of urgent action, the Home Office will carefully consider what options are available to help facilitate that advice.”

On Friday afternoon, Billy was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital in west London in an ambulance after experiencing uncontrollable seizures.

“Billy has had back-to-back seizures today,” his mother said. “On his medication, which included the vital but banned THC component, he was seizure-free for more than 300 days.”

Caldwell said doctors in Canada and Northern Ireland familiar with the case had described her son’s situation as life-threatening. She said the Home Office would be held accountable if her son died.

Billy had been placed on cannabidiol (CBD) oil, along with opiate-based medication, after he was forced to stop taking cannabis oil, but he failed to respond positively to the treatment and his health deteriorated as his seizures gradually resumed.

The family said the 12-year-old can now be treated only with hospital-administered medication.

Speaking from hospital, Caldwell told Sky News: “[Billy’s] out of the seizure but I cannot administer any more rescue medicine for him at home. He’s been admitted and they’re keeping him in hospital simply because Billy’s seizures are life-threatening … one seizure can kill him.”

Earlier on Friday, Caldwell criticised the government for effectively forcing them to leave the UK.

“No mother should be made to flee the country to keep their child alive,” she said. The pair have spent about four of the past 12 years abroad because cannabis oil is illegal in the UK.

On Monday they had six months’ worth of anti-epileptic medicine confiscated by customs agents when they arrived at Heathrow from Toronto. Caldwell was invited to meet the Home Office minister Nick Hurd, who told her that it would not be returned, despite her pleas.

“It has to be the most frightening situation that a mother could ever be put in,” Caldwell told the Guardian, describing how she and Billy had been forced to leave their home, friends and family in order to access the potentially life-saving medicine.

“He’s undergone countless administrations of anti-epileptic pharmaceutical drugs which have never worked and have upset his entire system,” Caldwell said. “The side-effects left him so depleted that he couldn’t even lift his head or pick up a toy.”

The anti-epilepsy drugs prescribed by the NHS often cause uncontrollable tremors, hair loss, swollen gums and rashes, among other adverse effects. Feeling that she had no choice but to seek treatment for her child abroad, Caldwell found a doctor in the US in September 2007 who “saved Billy’s life” by weaning him off anti-epileptic pharmaceutical drugs, which she says were aggravating his seizures.

The doctor also placed him on a ketogenic diet – a high-fat, low-carbohydrate food plan – that helped his seizures to rapidly subside.

Eight years later, in June 2016, the seizures returned. They travelled to California again in September that year, until their money ran out eight months later and they came back to their home in Northern Ireland.

In March 2017 they walked 150 miles in eight days, from their home to the hospital, to demonstrate the incredible improvement in Billy’s condition after the cannabis treatment.

Charlotte Caldwell and Billy at Heathrow, where they had a supply of cannabis oil confiscated


Charlotte Caldwell and Billy at Heathrow, where they had a supply of cannabis oil confiscated. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

A doctor in Northern Ireland prescribed him the oil, since it was clear it was the only effective treatment. This was the first time a child had ever been issued the substance on the NHS.

The oil contained CBD and also THC the psychoactive constituent of cannabis that gets users high. In October 2016, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued an opinion that products containing CBD used for medical purposes are medicine. However, medicines containing the raw form of THC remain illegal.

The government’s current position is that THC has no recognised medicinal or legitimate uses beyond potential research.

Although some children with epilepsy respond positively to CBD, the conditions of others, such as Billy, respond only to THC-derived products. And there is growing evidence of the benefits of prescribing medicinal cannabis.

After about 300 days without a seizure, the Home Office recently ordered the doctor to stop prescribing the oil, prompting Caldwell to seek treatment in Canada, which is preparing to legalise cannabis.

The case has shone a light on a drug policy that critics see as outdated and has provoked widespread demands for urgent reform, as well as calls for an exception to be made for Billy until legislation can be considered.

A woman gives a child cannabis oil for medical reasons in Peru, which legalised the substance for medicinal use in 2017


A woman gives a child cannabis oil for medical reasons in Peru, which legalised the substance for medicinal use in 2017. Photograph: Guadalupe Pardo/Reuters

Caldwell said she doubted whether she or Hurd would be arrested if the minister decided to “do the right thing” and allow Billy to have his anti-epileptic medication.

“Surely common sense should prevail,” she said, pointing to the public support for the legalisation of medical cannabis, and the fact that police in some parts of the country had deprioritised cannabis offences.

“To me, this is not an illegal or controlled substance, this is my little boy’s medicine. Even if you drank six months’ worth of this medicine, you wouldn’t get high because the THC content is so low.”

There are around 63,400 children with epilepsy in the UK and a third of those do not respond to the medication prescribed by the NHS. Some 1,150 people died of epilepsy-related causes in 2009.

Billy, who also has severe autism, cannot talk and requires 24/7 care, enjoys riding his pony Paddy, often goes swimming and attends a special needs school.

Asked how Billy had handled a week of intense media attention, Caldwell said he had been “a wee bit out of sorts” and that “he knows that something is going on”.

On Tuesday morning he had his first seizure in almost a year.

On the same day, a group of pro-reform Tory MPs said that medicinal cannabis could be on sale within a year. But this could be too late for Billy. “The fear that Billy will die without his medication has been my overriding emotion this week,” said Caldwell. “I think that fear is keeping me going.”