Britain’s Medical Cannabis Wall Is Tumbling Down

Faced with the exigent needs of really sick kids, the UK government has said it is preparing to allow emergency use of medical cannabis within the next two weeks.

British patients who could benefit from cannabinoid therapies have little access to the types of formulations found in established medical cannabis markets like Canada, California, or Colorado. Meanwhile, Europe as a whole is flocking toward making medical cannabis therapies more available.

According to local reports, the issue has come into focus in the UK over several pediatric epilepsy cases like Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell, a 12 year-old Northern Ireland pediatric epilepsy patient.

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British authorities seized Caldwell’s medication at London Heathrow Airport, sending him into a cascade of seizures requiring emergency attention. After Caldwell almost immediately suffered a seizure that hospitalized him, authorities gave him back his cannabidiol-rich medication—a high-CBD, low-THC mixture made by Canadian licensed producer Tilray and obtained during a trip to Canada. [Editor’s note: Tilray is owned by Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that also owns Leafly.]

Starting in two weeks, doctors will be able to order cannabis medicines on an emergency basis. It’s not clear how many will be willing to do that. Patients must show “exceptional clinical need” and doctors—who aren’t generally trained on the endocannabinoid system—could reportedly be liable for patient outcomes.

This week, musician and activist Damian Marley joined with physicians to call on England to fully legalize medical cannabis.

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