LONDON (AP) — The British government announced Tuesday it was reviewing its ban on cannabis-based medicines but rejected calls to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers that the cases like that of a 12-year-old epileptic boy denied cannabis oil for his condition showed there is “a pressing need to allow those who might benefit from cannabis based products to access them.”
But he said the government had “absolutely no plans” to decriminalize the drug more widely.
The change in stance came after the government relented and allowed a 12-year-old epileptic boy to receive cannabis oil treatment that his mother said was needed to prevent life-threatening seizures.
Javid said he was convinced after talking to medical workers that the boy, Billy Caldwell, faced a medical crisis.
His mother, Charlotte Caldwell, has called for urgent liberalization of laws governing medicinal marijuana use in Britain. She says cannabis oil is the only treatment that has warded off her son’s seizures.
Javid said Tuesday that a license to use cannabis-based drugs would also be issued for 6-year-old Alfie Dingley, whose epilepsy causes scores of seizures a day.
Britain currently does not recognize cannabis oil as a treatment for epilepsy in children but the National Health Service says it is studying possible uses of marijuana products for treatment of childhood epilepsy and several other diseases.
On Tuesday, former British Foreign Secretary William Hague joined a growing number of politicians and medical experts calling for the government to legalize marijuana.
The former Conservative Party leader, now a member of the House of Lords, wrote in Tuesday’s The Daily Telegraph that the effort to control cannabis has been lost and that it is “deluded” to pretend otherwise.
“Everyone sitting in a Whitehall conference room needs to recognize that, out there, cannabis is ubiquitous, and issuing orders to the police to defeat its use is about as up-to-date and relevant as asking the Army to recover the Empire. This battle is effectively over,” he said.
The Home Office said in response that “the government has no intention of reviewing the classification of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and it will remain a Class B drug” — the middle rung on a three-point scale of illegal drugs.