Belfast Telegraph

Charlotte Caldwell 'crying happy tears' as medicinal cannabis to become legal in Northern Ireland

Medicinal cannabis campaigner Charlotte Caldwell has spoken of her delight after it was confirmed medicinal cannabis is to become legal in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health (DoH) has announced it will be taking measures to allow patients access to prescribed cannabis-based medicinal products without a license.

It follows an announcement that similar changes which will occur in England, Wales and Scotland and will come into force on November 1 2018.

The DoH pointed out that the news did not "pave the way for towards legalising cannabis for recreational use".

Co Tyrone mum Charlotte Caldwell has spent years campaigning for the law change after discovering that cannabis oil helped treat her 13-year-old son Billy's epileptic seizures.

Earlier this year Billy received national attention when his medicinal cannabis medication was confiscated by the Home Office after a trip to Canada to access the medication.

The Home Office then gave him a short-term licence and the Department of Health (DoH) issued an emergency licence to allow him access to cannabis oil.

The Belfast Health Trust secured a licence to administer the medication to Billy at the Royal Victoria Hospital. He was then given permission to receive the medication at his Castlederg home.

Ms Caldwell said that the medicinal cannabis issue had become bigger than just Billy.

"I'm crying happy tears. It's been a treasure just out of reach for what seems like forever, but to see it in writing from the Government is incredible," she said.

"This isn't about Billy and me, it's about a nation. Only relatively recently did our Government and country really start to appreciate just how many wee children and people of all ages were affected by the difficulties associated with accessing medicinal cannabis.

"But once it became clear that it wasn't just about what was perceived to be a small number of very sick children, and that medicinal cannabis could make a life-changing or life-saving difference to more than a million people, the overwhelming support of the public and the incredible speed of reaction of the Home Secretary has delivered an utterly amazing result.

Ms Caldwell said the law change would benefit people across the United Kingdom.

"It feels like both five minutes and five years since Billy and I landed at Heathrow on June 11, 2018, and his meds were confiscated. Within a week, the Home Secretary had recognised the gravity of the situation for both Billy, and potentially many more children, then many families, then thousands of other people," she said.

"What started out as a journey for me as Billy's mummy to help my little boy has become something much bigger. The needs of my little boy turned out to be the needs of many more. As our mission grew, so did our family.

"I am no longer trying to change the law - we are thousands of people all with the same purpose - to make medicinal cannabis available for our entire family."

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