U.K. Okays Medical Cannabis, as Kids and Moms Lead the Way

Patients for whom traditional medications don’t work, especially children, spur progress in the U.K.


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif–The U.K.’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs last week announced that cannabis has potential therapeutic benefits and should be removed from its status as a Schedule 1 drug. Starting this fall, doctors in the U.K. will be able to prescribe medical cannabis for patients that have serious medical conditions not successfully treated with conventional therapies.

Awareness of prohibited access to medical cannabis in the U.K. was highlighted recently by cases involving two boys afflicted with severe epilepsy. Advocates’ pro-medical cannabis arguments also pointed out the conflict with U.K. patients being unable to access medications to treat serious conditions, while the country is currently the world’s leading exporter of medical cannabis, according to the United Nations.


In June, U.K.-based GW Pharmaceuticals’ medication Epidiolex became the first cannabis-derived formulation approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating two forms of severe childhood epilepsy.

“We have so much evidence now both anecdotally and scientifically; there just isn’t any excuse for lawmakers to continue to play doctor with people’s lives,” nonprofit Cannakids.org founder and CEO Tracy Ryan commented to mgretailer. “Politicians didn’t go to medical school, so why are they still even allowed to tell us what we can and cannot take as a medicine? Especially when we know it’s impossible for cannabis to kill you.”

Ryan is also the founder of SavingSophie.org, a pediatric cancer nonprofit founded on behalf of her daughter Sophie, who has used cannabis oil to treat symptoms of an inoperable tumor, called optic pathway glioma since she was a toddler. Eventually, after crediting cannabis oil for her daughter’s continued well-being while receiving chemotherapy and other conventional treatments, Ryan began advocating for cannabis oil treatment for serious pediatric illnesses.

Like the mothers of two boys that spurred the U.K.’s drug policy change, Ryan was forced to seek out cannabis oil therapy for her daughter, and has traveled abroad to participate in clinical research studies currently impossible to access here in the United States. In countries where cannabis remains categorized as a Schedule 1 narcotic, researchers and healthcare providers are blocked from pursuing legitimate research needed to document the efficacy of cannabis-derived compounds.

In June, 13-year old Billy Caldwell and his mother, Charlotte Caldwell, made international headlines when Ms. Caldwell attempted to bring a supply of cannabis oil from Canada into the U.K. and officials at London’s Heathrow airport confiscated the medication. Billy, who is severely epileptic, and his family traveled to several countries in search of treatment, when he was initially unable to obtain medical cannabis in Northern Ireland, where he lives.

After receiving cannabis oil since 2016, within days of the confiscation at Heathrow, Billy’s condition deteriorated to the point of requiring hospitalization. It was then U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid stepped in to allow special dispensation for Caldwell to receive cannabis oil treatment in hospital, in London.

Then, the tipping point for U.K. lawmakers came earlier this month, when Secretary Javid also granted an emergency license to six-year old epilepsy patient Alfie Dingley to obtain cannabis oil from Amsterdam, where it is sold legally. Supported by a popular social media campaign, a petition on Dingley’s behalf had been given to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who then prompted swift action for the family’s special license application, which the Secretary approved.

Finally, on July 26th–coincidentally, Billy Caldwell’s 13th birthday–Secretary Javid announced the change to the government’s policy on medical cannabis, which should allow Caldwell to return to his home in Northern Ireland for continuing treatment.

“The Billy Caldwell story is one that is near and dear to our team at CannaKids. Billy and his mom Charlotte originally came to California so they could establish residence and legally purchase cannabis in hopes it would stop little Billy’s seizures,” Ryan said, elaborating on Caldwell’s journey as a patient.

“His mom found his way to our nurse, Karen Roellich, who created an individualized dosing plan for Billy. When he started our line of CBD oils his seizures went away. His mom finally had hope that she had found a solution for her son when all hope was almost lost.”

The Caldwells eventually left California, but continued to pursue access to cannabis oil for Billy. When the Heathrow incident became an international news story, Ryan empathized from afar, knowing too well the obstacles for parents of children whose conditions are effectively treated only with medical cannabis oil.

“To see Charlotte on the news once again, fighting for Billy’s life, my heart absolutely sank,” Ryan described. “This mom has traveled the world to save her child, with roadblocks at every turn. Something I understand very well being the mom to a young cancer patient.

“These patients need access to their medicine. The fact that we still can’t get on an airplane that so freely serves alcohol, and travel with medicine that is clearly helping our children survive terrible ailments really does make me sick to my stomach,” she added.

This summer, after a long-awaited biopsy was performed on Sophie, Ryan arranged for live tissue to be implanted into laboratory mice by clinicians here in the U.S. Those mice, carrying living samples of tumor, were then delivered to Israel’s Technion Institute for clinical research trials that will yield detailed information on Sophie’s tumor and how it reacts to cannabis oil treatment.

Cannakids markets a line of CBD oil products, the proceeds of which go to benefit further work by the organization. Ryan continues to travel abroad, as a speaker, educator, and advocate, often with Sophie accompanying her. Working with medical cannabis-based companies like Oxnard-based Cure Pharmaceuticals and researchers worldwide, Cannakids is currently focused on treatments for pediatric cancer, epilepsy, and autism, among other conditions.