Alfie Dingley outside No 10 Downing Street.

By Chris Bovey

There has been a lot of media coverage in recent weeks about medicinal cannabis, in particular, focussing on two young boys who have a rare form of epilepsy, which only a cannabis-based medicine can treat and prevent seizures.

Both Alfie Dingley, from Kenilworth, Warwickshire and Billy Caldwell, from Northern Ireland, suffer a rare form of epilepsy that can lead to having up to 3,000 seizures a year. Unfortunately, conventional pharmaceutical products do not work for these children, yet a cannabis-based medicine legally available in many parts of the world has been found to be very effective.

Photo of Alfie Dingley.

Alfie Dingley was initially denied life-saving cannabis oil treatment by the UK government.

Alfie Dingley was treated by a qualified paediatrician in The Netherlands, which saw his seizures reduce from up to 30 a day to just 20 in a year. This was brought to the attention of the Conservative government a few months ago and they flatly refused grant him a license to use this potentially life-saving treatment that prevented him from having seizures.

Then recently we heard of the story of Billy Caldwell, who tried a cannabis-based medicine that had resulted in him not having a seizure for 300 days in a clinical trial in Canada. The medicine was confiscated by customs officials in Heathrow Airport and within a short space of time upon returning to the UK without his medication, he was soon rushed to intensive care to a hospital in London after suffering a seizure. The Government again initially refused to allow Billy his medication, his mother saying:

“If Billy dies, which is looking increasingly possible, then the Home Office, and Nick Hurd, will be held completely accountable.”

This story got the attention of the national press, it was covered by virtually every media outlet. Even my friend’s Tory voting mum who is very anti-drugs said “if it works, why can’t they just give it to him?”

After intense media pressure and public outcry, the Tories finally relented with Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, finding extraordinary superman-like powers to grant a temporary licence to Billy Caldwell and then to Alfie Dingley. They did not do this because they are compassionate, they did it because they knew to have a dead kid in the media because of their policies was not good PR. It had fuck all to do with compassion.

Sajid Javid on cannabis legalisation.

Since then there has been all sorts of excitement on Social Media, with people saying this is the end of cannabis prohibition. Some big political names, including Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, former Tory leader and Foreign Secretary, William Hague, the newly appointed Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, as well as Dianne Abbot from the Opposition Labour Party, all saying the law is unfit for purpose and needs to be changed.

Understandably, many cannabis consumers and law reform advocates were delighted to hear such noises coming from senior politicians, but something is standing in the way and that is our prohibitionist Prime Minister, Theresa May, who yesterday soon slapped them down ordering the Home Office to issue the following statement:

“The Home Office has been clear that there is strong scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can be detrimental to people’s mental and physical health.

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.

Any debate within government about the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medicines does not extend to any review regarding the classification of cannabis and the penalties for the illicit possession, cultivation and trafficking of cannabis will remain the same.”

I’m not getting that excited, are you?

Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary, tried to alter the findings of a Home Office report into drugs policy commissioned by the Liberal Democrats when they were in Coalition, because she didn’t like the conclusions.

Interestingly, the share price of GW Pharmaceuticals went down when the Home Secretary hinted it might allow cannabis oil to be prescribed, since this could potentially harm the monopoly the British government has given them to produce cannabis-based medications that are mainly for export to foreign markets.

GW Pharma share price chart

GW Pharmaceuticals’ share price drops after UK Home Secretary hints at legalising cannabis oil for some patients.

This might be good news for thousands of patients who need this medication, but not such good news for the May’s bank balance. The Prime Minister’s husband, Philip May, is employed by the financial group Capital International as a relationship manager, which has a 22% shareholding in GW Pharmaceuticals. Could this be why the Maybot is standing in the way of cannabis law reform when even her own Ministers and MPs are calling for a change in the law?

It is already the official policy of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens to legalise cannabis and Labour are more sympathetic on medicinal cannabis.

Former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, backed the full legalisation of cannabis, saying “Drug legalisation is a no-go area for most frontline politicians but on public health grounds, we should legalise cannabis.”

The former Foreign Secretary and Conservative Leader, William Hague also called for Theresa May to legalise cannabis, the saying policy is ‘inappropriate, ineffective and out of date’.

Mr Hague’s call was soon firmly rejected by Theresa May, as the profits of her husband’s company are far more important to her than trivial matters such as public health grounds.

Keep an eye on when Philip May’s Capital International start to sell their shares then you will know his Misses is about to change the law.

The recent news events are of course good in that two innocent children now have access to a potentially life-saving treatment and the hypocrisy over the Tories lying to us for years that cannabis has no medical benefit has been exposed in the mainstream media. The cat is certainly out of the basket, but still virtually every medicinal cannabis consumer in the UK is facing potential criminalisation, as well as recreational users who choose a substance that scientists say is 114 times safer than legal alcohol. No good news for them, as the Tories are making it perfectly clear they are not going to follow the lead of Canada, Uruguay and much of the USA by legalising cannabis.

While I welcome calls from such senior politicians from all British political parties to reform cannabis laws, I’m not opening any bottles of champagne, as it’s clear Theresa May will only consider corporate Big Pharma cannabis for the few, with a monopoly supply from only her husband and his mates.

As the Brexit fiasco unfolds, I doubt May will remain in her job for long, then maybe we will get a less authoritarian Prime Minister who will not stand in the way of cannabis law reform because of political dogma and protecting the vested interests of Tories who own large stakes in pharmaceutical companies with a licence to produce medicinal cannabis or the people that grow the weed for them.

In the meantime, keep lobbying your elected representatives to reform UK cannabis laws for both medicinal and recreational purposes.

Chris Bovey, writer and musician.

Chris Bovey is a businessman, writer, artist, musician and practical joker. He lives in Devon with his partner, two children and cat. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter @_dr_dremp.

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