The Heartless Hypocrisy of the British Government on Medicinal Cannabis

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The Home Office continues to refuse a boy suffering epileptic seizures life-saving medicine while conservative elites profit from Cannabis exports.

The conservative government and Home Office have refused repeated requests by the mother of a boy suffering from sporadic epileptic fits and autism to get life-saving cannabis oil-based medicine. Billy Caldwell was hospitalised last night in “life-threatening condition” whilst many in the Westminster elite continue to profit from cannabis sales. On Saturday, under overwhelming pressure, the Home Office buckled-issuing a special licence for the medicine.

Charlotte Caldwell, Billy Caldwell

Charlotte Caldwell with son Billy Caldwell [Credit Belfast Telegraph 10/08/17]

As widely reported, on Monday this week Charlotte Caldwell was apprehended at customs, and had “life-saving” cannabis medication for her 12-year-old son Billy – who suffers from severe epilepsy – confiscated by border authorities. In a long-term battle with the Home Office, Mrs Caldwell had been seeking permission to get her son, who has suffered up to a hundred continuous seizures a night, the medicine he requires. Continual refusal has seen her go to both the United States and Northern Ireland to get the CBD based medicine. The Home Office insisted a GP in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland who proscribed Billy Caldwell the vital medicine desist in doing so. After the latest confrontation, Home Office minister Nick Hurd referred Billy’s mother to a further bureaucratic pipeline of license application, a process both expensive and lengthy taking several months. Billy’s mother believed the Home Office had “signed Billy’s death warrant”- having his first seizure in over 250 days after missing his dose and soon after being hospitalised at Chelsea and Westminster hospital following a severe fit.

Were it not sufficiently scandalous that the British Government was actively preventing the supply of medicine to sick children that is already legalised to varying degrees in several countries, including Canada, Germany, Israel and much of the United States, recent revelations reveal further hypocrisy in the government’s position. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drug Policy Reform called on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to act this week after it was revealed that the Prime Minister’s Husband Phillip May, a high-level investment manager, oversees a UK based Pharma company GW Pharmaceuticals which produces cannabis products in Britain. In fact, they operate an apparent monopoly under special license from the Home Office to produce more than 20 million tonnes of cannabis in the UK a year for a cannabis spray product called ‘Sativex’. Many Britons were surprised to learn that while they still face arrest and imprisonment for cannabis possession, the British government has quietly overseen Britain’s ascendance as the largest producer of medicinal cannabis in the world-accounting for 44.9% of the global supply. Ronnie Cowan MP, Vice-Chair of the APPG rightly asked: “Is the UK government prioritising the interests of ‘big pharma’ monopoly profits over the health and wellbeing of UK citizens?”

The government’s hypocrisy on the issue follows on the back of revelations just a month ago about UK Drugs Minister Victoria Atkins. Atkins, the undersecretary of State at the Home Office and responsible for who oversees drugs policy, was accused of “Hypocrisy on a grand scale” when it became apparent that her husband Paul Kenward is managing director for British Sugar, the subsidiary of GW Pharmaceuticals which produces cannabis in the UK. Upon her appointment, Atkins recused herself from policy decisions on Cannabis because of the conflict of interest, citing that her husband works for a company which produces “Non-psychoactive versions of cannabis to treat epileptic conditions in children.”

While Brexit negotiations continue to absorb all political discussion in Britain, disastrous drugs policy has been ignored and sidelined by the Government. The opportunity to take a principled stance seems an obvious one for Her Majesty’s opposition under Jeremy Corbyn, yet Labour remains unlikely to touch the issue. It was the modernising New Labour government which made its name as ‘tough on drugs’, firing Drugs Minister David Nutt in 2009 for trying to introduce evidence-informed policy. Nutt said at a recent event that Labour’s drugs stance has been so indistinguishable from that of the Conservative Party that it has shut down any meaningful debate for decades. As recently as 2015 Labour cynically used the drugs issue as a stick to beat the Liberal Democrats-the only party offering reform of drugs policy in their manifesto.

Labour, Liberal Democrats, Medicinal Cannabis

Labour’s 2015 Campaign targeted the Liberal Democrats as ‘Soft on Drugs’ for proposing medicinal legalisation.

While racial profiling and the startling rise in knife crime both appear high on the agenda for Labour, with MPs David Tammy and Dianne Abbott particularly vocal, both have been completely remiss to mention the role of drugs policy. The fact that cannabis criminalisation disproportionately affects black, minority and ethnic communities remains an inconvenient truth, and despite a leaked Home Office report that the spike in knife crime is driven by the surge in the black market cocaine trade Labour remains silent, falling back on talking points relating to police cuts and austerity. As a result, the drugs debate in Britain looks to remain sidelined, suppressed and ignored. Britain will continue to trail after its European and Atlantic partners until long after the US and Canada have both federally legalised medicinal cannabis and established regulated markets for non-medicinal use.

The world is moving forward on cannabis but Britain remains locked in the past, dogmatic and increasingly isolated. The Theresa May nanny state’s cynicism on drugs, left unchanged, only adds further texture to the bleak picture of Brexit Britain. 

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