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Tories blasted for links to medical cannabis industry despite UK ban on "life-saving" drugs

Posted by Calum Napier on
Tories blasted for links to medical cannabis industry despite UK ban on "life-saving" drugs
Ministers insist the cannabis has “no medical value”, but still allow British firms to produce it under a special licence for sale to a foreign market


The mum of a child denied the medical cannabis that stopped his seizures has told of her fury over Tory links to British firms that supply the drug abroad.

Charlotte Caldwell spoke after it was revealed Theresa May’s husband Philip’s Capital Group is the largest investor in GW Pharmaceuticals, which mass produces it here, where it is banned, for a foreign market.

GW chairman Geoffrey Guy is a Tory donor and drugs minister Victoria Atkins is married to Paul Kenward, boss of British Sugar, another medical cannabis supplier.

Ministers insist the drug has “no medical value”, but still allow British firms to produce it under a special licence.

And GW use it in its anti-epilepsy medicine Epidiolex.

Charlotte, whose son Billy, 12, relies on cannabis oil to stop him having up to 100 seizures a day, accused the Tories of putting his life at risk by denying him the drug.

The 50-year-old said:

“Why is my son being left to die in his own country by his own government? I can tell you why, greed and hypocrisy and it’s a recipe that will kill Billy.”

Families4Access campaign spokesman Robbie Emerson, whose two-year-old daughter Jorja has fits, added: “It’s total hypocrisy.

“People are making money while children are dying because they can’t get this drug. How can the Government grant a licence to grow and sell it to other countries but not give it to our own people?”

Charlotte, of Castlederg, Co Tyrone, was stopped on Monday returning to Britain from Canada with a supply of cannabis oil for Billy.

The batch was confiscated and Policing Minister Nick Hurd refused to hand it back after meeting her.

She told how her son had his first fit on Tuesday in 19 months and added: “A cannabis-rich government ensured he is going cold turkey off his medication.

"Billy was prescribed medicinal cannabis to save his life. It was taken away by the Government.

“Billy’s benefit would be to live and have a good quality of life.

“The Mays’ benefit I suggest is financial and of no importance compared to the life of my child.

“I wonder who the public would hold to account if my son suffered a catastrophic seizure that killed him.”

Billy had been prescribed cannabis oil by his local GP but the doctor was threatened with being struck off if he continued, so Charlotte flew to Canada to get fresh supplies.

Robbie said he and other families are preparing to do the same to get the drug. He added: “I’m happy to go to jail for my daughter.”


The law

The medicine prescribed for Billy is legally made by Canadian manufacturer Tilray and used by many families worldwide.

It has a high ratio of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive chemical found in the cannabis plant, to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that gives users a high and is illegal in Britain.

Most cannabis-based epilepsy therapies have more CBD than THC so do not produce a high. Despite this, those containing any THC are banned unless a special exemption licence is granted.

While CBD is legal in this country it is not available on the NHS. The lack of clinical trials means it has to be classified as a “food supplement” rather than a medicine.

As the law stands the maximum penalty for possession of THC is five years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Billy and Alfie’s medicine was what is called “full spectrum” cannabis oil containing both CBD and THC and is therefore technically illegal.


Written by Nick Sommerlad, Jilly Beattie & Martin Bagot for

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