A British mother has accused the U.K. government of issuing a "death sentence" against her epileptic son after seizing his supply of medical cannabis. This Monday, Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy flew into Heathrow Airport from Canada, carrying a six-month supply of CBD oil, which was confiscated by British customs officials. Twelve-year-old Billy Caldwell suffered from as many as 100 seizures a day until he traveled to the U.S. to receive medical cannabis treatment in 2016. During the time that he was taking the medicine, Billy went for as long as 300 days without having a single seizure.
CBD, like all cannabis derivatives, is classified by the U.K. government as a dangerous Schedule I drug with no medical value, making it difficult for the Caldwells and many other British families to source the medicine. Throughout 2016, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) sent cease-and-desist letters to several CBD producers and retailers operating throughout the U.K., demanding that they stop producing the medicine.
By the end of 2016, the MHRA's stance on medical cannabis began to soften slightly, and the organization acknowledged that CBD could indeed have a "restoring, correcting, or modifying" effect on patients with certain ailments. Last January, the MHRA classified CBD as an official ingredient in medical products, establishing a set of regulations for these medications. Later that year, Billy Caldwell became the first resident of the U.K. to receive a prescription for CBD oil via the National Health Service.
Despite the effectiveness of the medication, the U.K. Home Office wrote a letter to Caldwell's doctor this year, demanding that he stop writing prescriptions for medical cannabis. The doctor was then asked to meet with officials from the Department of Health's Drug Enforcement Agency. "The meeting was particularly uncomfortable for the doctor," an anonymous source told The Independent. "He had no choice but to comply. The prescriptions stopped there and then."
With only one dose of medicine left for her son, Charlotte Caldwell flew to Canada to enroll Billy in a clinical trial at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. This Monday, the family returned from Canada with a six-month supply of CBD oil, which was immediately seized by customs officials at Heathrow Airport. "The customs officers were very conflicted about removing the medication from me," Charlotte said to The Independent. "One of them had tears in his eyes, he didn't want to have to do it."
"I was absolutely devastated that they took it, considering that I presented it to them with a full analysis and a full report on the clinical trials that have been done on kids like Billy in Canada," she continued. "It's one thing not giving a child medication when they need it, but it's another thing to take it away when they already had it — it's actually criminal to do that."
Later that day, Caldwell met with Home Office minister Nick Hurd to plead with him for the return of her son's medicine. "We had an honest and genuine conversation," Caldwell told the BBC. "I have asked him to give Billy back his medicines, but he said no." Caldwell also noted that it is dangerous for her son to run out of CBD oil after using it consistently for 19 months. Stopping the medicine abruptly "can cause really bad side-effects — they wean them down slowly," she explained. "So what Nick Hurd has just done is most likely signed my son's death warrant."
The amount of medical evidence showing the effectiveness of CBD oils as a treatment for epilepsy in children has been growing constantly over the past two decades, and a growing number of U.S. states and global governments have accepted the non-psychoactive oil as a legitimate medicine. Late in 2017, the World Health Organization released a report noting the safety and effectiveness of CBD as medicine.
Neither the U.K. nor the U.S. government has accepted the overwhelming evidence fully, and both countries still officially classify CBD as a dangerous and medically-useless substance. Regardless of prohibition, the number of CBD users in the U.K. doubled from 2016 to 2017, and a growing number of U.S. states have individually legalized CBD-based medical treatment.
Caldwell said that she will be watching after her son's health while fighting for his right to resume treatment. "Now we are back to square one. By the time I wake on Tuesday and start to fight for the oil to be returned, he will have missed four doses," she told Belfast Live. "He will sleep tonight and I pray he sleeps peacefully. I'll watch him every minute. It's all I can do to keep him alive until we get his oil back."