When Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced on July 26, 2018, that cannabis-derived products would be available soon, one of the children who inspired his action, Billy Caldwell, was celebrating his 13th birthday.
Javid’s announcement also overruled Britain Prime Minister Theresa May by challenging her insistence on continuing the war on drugs even after she conceded to its failure.
It was about the children, Javid insisted.
“Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory,” Javid said in the London-based Independent. “Following advice from two sets of independent advisers, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products—meaning they will be available on prescription.”
Several high-profile cases of children with epilepsy dominated the news cycles in the United Kingdom for nearly two months after Billy and his mother, Charlotte Caldwell, were stopped on June 11, 2018, upon returning from Toronto with his cannabis-based seizure medication.
After that, things moved quickly.
“Less than eight weeks from start to finish,” Steve Moore, Caldwell’s press adviser, told Marijuana.com. “None of this would have happened without Charlotte and Billy and the other courageous families. Their campaign was dynamic…it made the public sit up and take notice.”
Sounding relieved yet exhausted, Caldwell agreed. “Billy’s life was at stake…there wasn’t a moment to lose.
“The most important thing is that my son can live a normal life because now I can legally administer a couple of drops a day of a long-maligned medication that has been extremely effective for Billy,” she told Marijuana.com.
Caldwell praised Javid, calling him “the king of hearts,” but noted the decision needs to be followed up by government action to promote understanding around medicinal cannabis.
“We’re hoping that responsibility for medical cannabis will now transfer from the Home Office to the health department,” she said. “There’s still a lot of confusion over the various products that are prescribed. The health department has to explain how this is all going to work.”
The Department for Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency are determining what constitutes a medicinal cannabis product under the rule change, according to the British government’s announcement.
A member of the Conservative Party, Javid stressed that his decision was “in no way a first step to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use.”
Former Conservative Party Home Secretary William Hague took a different stance. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Hague said Billy Caldwell’s case revealed that the UK’s drug laws were “inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date.”
The idea that cannabis can be “driven off the streets and out of people’s lives by the state is nothing short of deluded,” he said.
“It should now be asked whether Britain should join the many other countries that permit medical-grade marijuana,” Hague wrote, “or indeed join Canada in preparing for a lawful, regulated market in cannabis for recreational use as well.”