Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, made the announcement saying that the “position we find ourselves in is not satisfactory”.
The announcement has come days after Mr Javid issued a special 20-day licence for cannabis oil for a 12-year-old boy with a severe form of epilepsy.
Billy Caldwell’s cannabis oil medicine was confiscated at Heathrow Airport by authorities last week. This led to Billy’s seizures returning for the first time in over 300 days and putting him in hospital.
Mr Javid said he had used an “exceptional power” as Home Secretary to issue the licence for him. He added that the decision was based on the advice of senior clinicians who explained that this was a medical emergency.
On Tuesday, Mr Javid said in the House of Commons that a licence would also be issued to another young boy with severe epilepsy, Alfie Dingley.
Alfie, six, could have up to 150 seizures a month. His family applied for a licence for him to use cannabis oil in April, after trying it in the Netherlands and seeing positive results.
Mr Javid said that cases like Billy’s and Alfie’s “have shown that we now need to look more closely at the use of cannabis-based medicines in the healthcare sector in the UK”.
He stressed that this is not a step towards legalising the recreational use of cannabis. “The penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged. We will not set a dangerous precedent or weaken our ability to keep dangerous drugs off the streets.”
The announced review will be done in two parts. In the first part, a panel will consider the available evidence on medicinal cannabis. It will be led by Prof Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England. In the second part, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will assess harmful effects versus public health needs. They will then make recommendations to the government about the medical position regarding the products.
Mr Javid added that the review will take some time. In the short term, Policing Minister Nick Hurd announced on Monday that an expert panel of clinicians will be put together. They will advise the government on any new applications for cannabis-based medicines.
This expert panel will also be put together by Prof Sally Davies and is expected to start receiving applications from Monday 25 June. Charlotte Caldwell, Billy’s mother, who has been campaigning for the government to allow Billy to take his cannabis oil medicine, will be part of the panel.
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Home Office returns confiscated cannabis oil to 12-year-old Northern Ireland boy with epilepsy after he has first seizure in over 300 days
The UK Home Office has returned 12-year-old Billy Caldwell’s cannabis oil epilepsy medicine after he was taken to hospital on Friday 15 June. This was after Billy’s medicine was confiscated at Heathrow Airport on Monday 11 June.