Billy Caldwell, a 12-year-old U.K. boy with epilepsy, has had his first seizure in months last night, his mother reports. The seizure comes just hours after U.K. border officials confiscated Billy’s medicinal cannabis oil at Heathrow Airport yesterday. The main active ingredient of the cannabis oil medication that Billy uses is CBD. But it also has enough THC to make it a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the U.K.
Billy’s mother Charlotte Caldwell had taken him to Canada to secure the medical cannabis treatment. Without it, Billy can have up to 100 seizures per day. Charlotte posted a video of Billy’s early morning seizure to the Facebook group Keep Billy Alive. A spokesperson for the Caldwell family told The Independent that Billy’s condition had been well controlled with cannabis oil.
“The last time he had a seizure was several months ago, and even then it was because he wasn’t well anyway and had a bug at the time,” the spokesperson said.
Billy began treating his epilepsy with medicinal cannabis in the U.S. in 2016. Last year he became the first patient in the U.K. to receive a prescription for cannabis oil from the National Health Service. Once he began using the medicine, he went nearly a year without a seizure.
However, last month the British government ended those prescriptions. So, with just one dose of Billy’s medicine left, he and Charlotte flew to Canada for help. Once there, The Hospital for Sick Children replenished their supply of cannabis oil.
But when Charlotte declared it to border officials at Heathrow Airport upon returning to the U.K., they seized the medication. She was defiant in a statement to the press after the confiscation.
“I will just go back to Canada and get more and I will bring it back again because my son has a right to have his anti-epileptic medication in his country, in his own home,” she said.
She also asserted that the government’s actions were tantamount to a crime.
“It’s one thing not giving a child medication when they need it, but it’s another thing to take it away when they already had it—it’s actually criminal to do that,” she said.
Mum Meets with MP
So far, Charlotte has met with Home Office policing Minister Nick Hurd twice in an effort to reclaim Billy’s medicine. But the MP seems unmoved by Billy’s suffering. A spokesperson said the Home Office would not relent and suggested the Caldwells instead seek help from the government of Northern Ireland, where they live.
“The Home Office is sympathetic to the rare situation that Billy and his family are faced with,” the government spokesperson said. “The policing minister met Ms. Caldwell and advised her that despite these extremely difficult circumstances, it is unlawful to possess Schedule 1 drugs such as those seized at the border [yesterday] morning without a license. The minister urged the family to explore licensing options with the Department of Health Northern Ireland.”
Advocates Ask Public for Help
Despite the government’s response, Billy’s family and friends haven’t given up hope. Charlotte and advocates for her and Billy hope public pressure may spur change at the Home Office. They are asking supporters to email Hurd at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Give Billy back his medicine” to share their thoughts on the matter.
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