A Tayside mum is hoping that the legalisation of medicinal cannabis later this year will give her child a better life.
Jenny McMillan, from Carnoustie, has welcomed the change in the law which she believes will significantly reduce the daily seizures suffered by her six-year-old son, Blake.
The youngster has the rare genetic condition MECP2 duplication syndrome, which has left him unable to eat, walk or talk.
It also gives him frequent and “awful” seizures, according to his mum.
Jenny says she and Blake hope to be among the first in line to have cannabis products prescribed.
She said: “I’d love for Blake to be prescribed medicinal cannabis as it could potentially have a huge impact on the amount of seizures he has.
“It could also allow me to reduce and hopefully stop the anti-epilepsy drug he takes which could have a significant improvement in his quality of life.
“I buy legal CBD oil which costs me a lot of money but I’m prepared to do that to stop his seizures getting out of control.”
She added that Blake had been placed on a ketogenic diet, low in carbohydrates and high in fat, in a bid to reduce his seizures.
However, she believes that the prescription of medicinal cannabis would be cheaper and simpler for the NHS to administer.
“To control Blake’s seizures would mean so much to me,” she said. “Lately he has had numerous bad seizures. It’s awful for him and devastating for me and his sister to witness.”
Multiple studies on the medical uses of cannabis have found that the plant and its extracts can help to reduce the frequency of seizures and provide pain relief for certain conditions.
Last month, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that cannabis-derived medical products would be available on prescription from specialists in the near future.
Certain products which meet a particular definition of medicinal cannabis will be rescheduled under Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations – meaning that, while still illegal, they can be lawfully prescribed for legitimate purposes.
The exact definition of a cannabis-derived medicine is yet to be agreed by the Government’s medical experts.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis and its use in medical products has been banned up until this point.
However, CBD, another cannabis derivative, has been legal for some time, and has been linked to a reduction in seizures.
The government’s latest announcement follows pressure from the families of children from across the UK who rely on the use of cannabis extracts for health.
The “exceptional” cases of youngsters Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, both of whom have rare forms of epilepsy, helped to pave the way for the landmark ruling.
Both boys were denied access to cannabis oil which had been helping to control their seizures.
After a nationwide outcry, Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, launched a review into medicinal cannabis.
They concluded that patients with certain medical conditions should be given access to the treatments.
Mr Javid said the UK Government’s previous position on medicinal cannabis was “not satisfactory”.
He added: “This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need, but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.”
Drug needs to be subjected to usual stringent standards
Medicinal cannabis needs to be treated in the same way as other legal prescription drugs in order to be taken seriously, according to a pro-drugs policy think tank.
Paul North, head of communications at lobbying group Volteface, said that it needed to be subjected to the same stringent standards as other prescription drugs.
“There’s still lots of work to be done to define what exactly it can be used for,” he said.
“However, it should look and feel like a medicine and should be used to treat conditions for which there is evidence that it works.
“There are those who say it can be used for anxiety, and for PTSD – but these are the types of people who usually say it works for everything.
“However, there is clear, well-researched evidence that with certain conditions such as epilepsy, cannabis can reduce the number of seizures a person has.”
Paul said that clear boundaries would have to be set to prevent prescribing of the drug turning into a “free-for-all”. He added: “We don’t want to see a situation where it’s poorly regulated like in the US, where people with a medical card can just walk into a shop saying they have back pain and come out with weed.
“A clear evidence base legitimises cannabis’s use as a medicine.
“And now that cannabis is set to be rescheduled – as a controlled drug that can be prescribed – we can start to build that evidence base here in the UK, and we can do clinical trials.
“It’s early days for medicinal cannabis but it is definitely good news.
“It’s very positive news and something there is a great deal of public support for.”