The mother of Alfie Dingley wept with joy today as she was told the government is granting a licence for him to receive cannabis oil for severe epilepsy.
Hannah Deacon was overcome with emotion as she heard the news that Home Secretary Sajid Javid was authorising use of the medication for her six-year-old son.
Wiping away tears during an interview on ITV News, Ms Deacon said: ‘Thank you. Thank you to the Prime Minister.’
The dramatic moment came minutes after Mr Javid had informed the House of Commons that the government is reviewing ‘unsatisfactory’ rules to allow cannabis to be used for medical treatments.
In a statement to MPs, the Home Secretary said after a series of high-profile cases it had become clear that the current system of licensing medicines was not fit for purpose.
He said a licence for cannabis oil for Alfie, who has been waiting for months, would be issued later today.
But Mr Javid rejected a demand from Lord Hague for recreational cannabis to be made legal because the war on the drug had been ‘comprehensively and irreversibly lost’.
Wiping away tears during an interview on ITV News, Hannah Deacon said: ‘Thank you. Thank you to the Prime Minister.’
In a statement to MPs, the Home Secretary said after a series of high-profile cases it had become clear that the current system of licensing medicines was not fit for purpose
Six-year-old epileptic Alfie Dingley from Warwickshire has been awaiting a Government decision on whether he can use cannabis oil medication
Alfie suffers from a rare form of epilepsy which means that he can suffer more than 100 seizures a month.
Earlier this morning, Ms Deacon complained that the Prime Minister had assured her three months ago that his case would be resolved speedily and on ‘a compassionate basis’ – but they had found ‘hurdle after hurdle’ in their path.
Ms Deacon was appearing on the ITV Lunchtime news to talk about her son’s case when presenter Nina Hossain said the Home Secretary was planning to telephone her.
‘I’m also hearing that what he’s going to say to you is that a licence will be issued to Alfie,’ Hossain said. ‘Your reaction to that please?’
Cannabis and the law: What are the rules on street drugs and medical treatments?
Cannabis is banned as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
Conviction for possession can attract a five year prison sentence and an unlimited fine. The penalty for production and dealing can be up to 14 years.
The government does not recognise any ‘medicinal or therapeutic’ benefit from raw cannabis or the active ingredient, THC.
But there are cannabis-based medicinal products which are currently available in the UK.
They include Sativex, which can be used to treat of multiple sclerosis.
Under Home Office rules, any application to administer cannabis-based medicines must be led by a senior clinician and backed by an NHS Trust.
In exceptional circumstances where there is a ‘medical emergency’, the Home Secretary can grant a short-term licence outside of the normal process.
The power had not been used until this weekend, when Sajid Javid authorised cannabis oil for Billy Caldwell.
The Home Office said: ‘Decisions over the length of time emergency licences are granted for are taken on a case by case basis and based on medical advice.’
Ministers announced yesterday that Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davis has been asked to establish an expert panel to advise on individual applications to prescribe cannabis-based medicines.
Taking a deep breath and wiping her eyes, Ms Deacon said: ‘That’s amazing news. Thank you very much for letting me know. Thank you. Thank you to the Prime Minister.’
In the Commons, Mr Javid said: ‘It has become clear to me that the position we find ourselves in certainly is not satisfactory.’
He said a review was being rushed through, but indicated to MPs that his ‘direction of travel’ was already clear.
The first part of the overhaul, led by chief medical officer Sally Davies, will make recommendations on which cannabis-based medicines might offer patients real medical and therapeutic benefits.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will consider in the second part of the review whether changes should be made to the classification of these products on an assessment of ‘the balance of harms and public health needs’.
‘If the review identifies significant medical benefits, then we do intend to reschedule,’ Mr Javid told MPs.
‘We have seen in recent months that there is a pressing need to allow those who might benefit from cannabis-based medicines to access them.’
Mr Javid said that since becoming Home Secretary in April, it had become clear to him that the current legal position on medicinal cannabis was ‘not satisfactory for the parents, not satisfactory for the doctors, and not satisfactory for me’.
On the subject of a wider legalisation, Mr Javid said: ‘This step is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.
‘This Government has absolutely no plans to legalise cannabis and the penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.’
Billy Caldwell, 12, was handed an emergency licence to receive cannabis oil over the weekend – the first time the Home Secretary has used powers to sidestep laws on medicinal cannabis.
Billy – an epileptic child who needs cannabis oil to treat his life-threatening seizures – has now been discharged from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Doctors were bowled over by the effects of the oil, which he needs to suppress up to 100 fits a day.
However, questions remain over what will happen with the special 35-day licence granted by Mr Javid expires.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott welcomed the announcement, telling MPs a review of the scheduling of cannabis was ‘long overdue’.
Ms Abbott said: ‘We welcome the Home Secretary’s statement that he’s going to look more closely at the use of cannabis-based medication in health care in the UK.
‘We agree that this is the right time, if not long overdue, to review the scheduling of cannabis and we are very glad to hear that the Policing Minister has spoke, or will speak, to Alfie Dingley’s mother.’
Ms Deacon said she now hoped obtaining a licence would become easier for families.
‘There are lots and lots of families up and down this country who are suffering with children with severe epilepsy where medication and diet doesn’t work,’ she said.
‘I’m not saying that it should be the first line of medication – there are other protocols to try.
‘But if those protocols don’t work then medical cannabis surely, for the severely ill children, should be made available.
‘It is just madness to think tha