The UK's National Health Service Prescribed Cannabis for the First Time

To an 11-year-old boy who suffers from life-threatening epilepsy.
April 24, 2017, 1:44pm
Photo by Nick Dodd

A doctor has prescribed medicinal marijuana to an 11-year-old boy, in what is believed to be the first example of the National Health Service utilizing a UK ruling last year allowing the prescription of drugs derived from cannabis.

Billy Caldwell, from Northern Ireland, had been traveling to the US to procure cannabis oil to treat his epilepsy, which at its worst had him suffering from up to 100 life-threatening fits every day. When his supply of cannabis oil was running out and a trip back to Los Angeles was not possible, his mother, Charlotte, took him to see a general practitioner.


After acknowledging what he called a "unique and unusual" situation, Dr. Brendan O'Hare opted to prescribe Caldwell an oil containing cannabidiol (or CBD)—the compound in cannabis with medicinal qualities—but not THC, the psychoactive element of the plant. Charlotte was able to pick up the oil from her local pharmacy.

Charlotte has long been campaigning for people to be given access to the treatment and said: "It's a huge step forward. It's an alternative treatment, and it's worked out well for Billy."

Norman Lamb MP, the Liberal Democrats' health spokesman, said: "It's wonderful that Billy has been helped in this way with what is potentially life-saving treatment. I don't think anyone seriously argues against him getting access to treatment that has had such a dramatic impact on his life. There is no logic in denying it to others if it can be equally effective. There's lots of evidence, particularly in conditions involving lots of pain, that medical cannabis can be extraordinarily powerful and effective."

Top photo: homemade cannabis oil, made by DIY weed doctors in Scotland