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Mother who had son's medical cannabis confiscated warns he 'will surely pass away' if law does not change

‘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’

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Monday 11 June 2018 17:57 BST
UK custom officers seize cannabis oil medication which prevents a 12 year old boy’s life threatening seizures

The government has been accused of endangering the life of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell after Heathrow customs officials confiscated a cannabis-based medicine used to treat his severe epilepsy.

Billy’s mother, Charlotte Caldwell, told the media one member of customs staff “had tears in their eyes” when they confiscated the treatment, which had been issued through a clinical trial in Toronto, Canada.

Returning on Monday, the family declared the six-month supply of an oil containing CBD, one of the key constituents of medical cannabis, which has helped to eradicate Billy’s life-threatening seizures.

“Without that medicine, Billy’s seizures will return and Billy will surely pass away,” Ms Caldwell said.

Billy suffered from up to 100 seizures a day before he began receiving a cannabis oil treatment in the US in 2016. He has gone as long as 300 days seizure-free since.

He became the first person in the UK to receive medical marijuana through an NHS prescription, with the support of his GP in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

However, last month the Home Office ordered the GP to stop the prescription or lose his medical licence.

Unable to get their regular prescription, the family have been counting down until their medication runs out, and have been lobbying the Home Office to change the laws to support people like Billy.

On Thursday, Ms Caldwell shared pictures from an airport departure terminal prior to their trip and said in a tweet on Sunday: “Billy has got his medicine. We are on our way home, just elated”.

But at a press conference on Monday, attended by eight other families of children with epilepsy who are backing the cannabis campaign, she explained how their hopes had again been dashed.

“The customs officers were very conflicted about removing the medication from me,” she added. “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.

“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.”

She said it was an “outrage” that parents should have to flee their own country to access life-saving treatment and urged the public not to confuse this issue up with the legalisation of recreational cannabis.

“It is Billy’s anti-epileptic medication that [Home Office minister] Nick Hurd has taken away,” Ms Caldwell said.

“It’s not some form of joint, full of recreational cannabis, it is anti-epileptic medication that has been taken off me at the airport today.”

The family will be meeting with policing minister Mr Hurd later on Monday and Ms Caldwell hoped he would return the medication to her.

However, she said she would keep travelling to Canada with the treatment until the government sees sense.

Last week, Canada became the first G7 country to legalise marijuana, though it was already legal for medical purposes.

Billy’s prescription was issued by a licensed physician, who has not been named, after a physical examination and a review of his medical history and would be enough to last for six months.

Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy at Heathrow Airport (PA)

Cannabis is a Schedule One drug in the UK, which means it is classed as having no medicinal benefit.

The Home Office has previously suggested another epileptic boy, Alfie Dingley, could receive the treatment through medical trials.

Six-year-old Alfie, who endured more than 3,000 seizures and 48 hospital visits in a single year, is another beneficiary of medical cannabis, which he received when his family relocated to the Netherlands for treatment.

Alfie’s parents are also fighting for a medical prescription from the UK and delivered a petition to No 10.

They are being supported by MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office is sympathetic to the difficult and rare situation that Billy and his family are faced with.

“Whilst we recognise that people with debilitating illnesses are looking to alleviate their symptoms, Border Force has a duty to stop banned substances from entering the UK. Ms Caldwell has therefore had cannabis oil seized this morning at Heathrow Airport upon landing from Canada.”

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