Medical marijuana is technically legal in the UK, but it's extremely difficult for patients to obtain legally, so the parents of many sick children have resorted to smuggling the drug.
One of those parents is Emma Appleby, whose nine-year-old daughter has epilepsy. After months of trying to get medical marijuana to treat her daughter's condition, Appleby felt forced to take drastic measures. Late last week Appleby returned to the UK from the Netherlands with a three-months' supply of cannabis oil—valued at £4,500 (US$5,867)—for her young child, only to have the medication sized by customs officials when she arrived.
"I'm devastated. I've always tried to do the right thing. I've jumped through all the hoops but ended up being passed from pillar to post and being met with a flat 'no,'" Appleby told The Guardian. "All I want is the best thing for my daughter. To have the medicine taken in this way is deeply upsetting."
Without cannabis, Appleby's daughter suffers up to 300 seizures a day. Traditional treatments have proven ineffective, said Appleby, and caused a number of severe side-effects. For her and many other patients, medical marijuana is the most effective and safest treatment for their conditions. So it's not surprising that Appleby and other patients are frustrated that they can't get access to it.
"Whilst the National Health Service and the medical professions are having arguments over what constitutes evidence, my child is suffering every day," Appleby said.
Lawmakers that support marijuana reform see Appleby's case as clear evidence that the current system is not working.
"That a mother of such a sick child as this has been driven to take these desperate measures is a damning indictment of how this policy has been implemented," said MP Tonia Antoniazzi (Labour), who co-chairs the all-party parliamentary group on medical marijuana. "The government did the right thing in changing the law. But everyone involved with the implementation should hang their heads in shame."
For her part, Appleby said she is prepared to fight to have her daughter's medication returned. A similar battle was fought earlier this year by Charlotte Caldwell, who tried to smuggle marijuana into the UK for her young son. The cannabis was confiscated by customs but then returned to Caldwell within a week after her son had be admitted to hospital.