Published on:
Friday, June 22, 2018

Is it time to legalise medical cannabis in the UK?

The case of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell has given fresh impetus to the debate on medicinal marijuana, but reforming the law is difficult in an industry plagued by non-scientific methods

In around 2700 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung, revered as the father of Chinese medicine, ate the flowers of a certain pungent weed. “Medical cannabis. Stop eating. Let go. Eat more, you will see white ghosts walking around,” he wrote in his pharmocopoeia, The Herbal. “Eat long enough, you will know how to talk to the gods.” Shen Nung claimed the plant could treat more than 1,000 ailments, a citation accepted by historians as the first reference to the medicinal qualities of cannabis sativa.

Five millennia later, and medicinal cannabis is the subject of fierce debate in the UK. On Saturday 16 June, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, allowed Charlotte Caldwell from Castlederg, County Tyrone, to resume the only treatment that stops her 12-year-old son, Billy, having daily, life-threatening epileptic seizures: cannabis oil containing illegal levels of the intoxicating compound THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), which is a non-psychoactive, legal cannabinoid.

Parents should not have to break the law to keep their children alive

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