A severely epileptic boy will be given back medicinal cannabis oil that was confiscated from his mother at customs, the home secretary has said.
Billy Caldwell, 12, would receive the oil after doctors made clear it was a “medical emergency”, Sajid Javid said.
Billy’s mother, Charlotte Caldwell, from County Tyrone, who had pleaded for oil to be returned, said they had “achieved the impossible”.
Billy began using cannabis oil in 2016 to control his seizures.
The cannabis oil, which contains a substance called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is illegal in the UK but available elsewhere.
His most recent supply – which Ms Caldwell had tried to bring into the UK from Canada – was confiscated at Heathrow Airport on Monday and he was later admitted to hospital.
Ms Caldwell previously said it was “beyond cruelty” that her son had no access to the anti-epileptic medication.
On Saturday, Mr Javid said he had issued a licence to allow Billy to be treated with the cannabis oil.
“This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way,” he said.
“We have been in close contact with Billy’s medical team overnight and my decision is based on the advice of senior clinicians who have made clear this is a medical emergency.
“The policing minister met with the family on Monday and since then has been working to reach an urgent solution.”
Ms Caldwell said: “I truly believe that somewhere in the Home Office there’s someone with a heart and I truly believe that Billy was pulling on their heart strings.”
She added: “My experience leaves me in no doubt that the Home Office can no longer play a role in the administration of medication for sick children in our country.”
“Children are dying in our country and it needs to stop now.”
Billy, from Castlederg, started the treatment in 2016 in the US, where medical marijuana is legal.
In 2017, he was prescribed the medication on the NHS. But in May this year, his GP was told he could no longer prescribe it.
At the time the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said cannabis had not yet been licensed in the UK as a medicine.
Last Monday, Ms Caldwell tried to bring a six-month supply of the oil – to treat up to 100 seizures a day – into the UK from Canada but the substance was confiscated by officials at Heathrow airport.
The boy’s family said he was taken to hospital when his seizures “intensified” in recent days.
Ms Caldwell says Billy’s seizures dramatically reduce when he takes the oil.
The family’s MP, Órfhlaith Begley, said the Home Office’s decision was “life-saving”, adding: “I will continue to engage with the Home Office and the health authorities to ensure he can access his medication in the longer term so there is no repeat of the trauma he has suffered over recent weeks.”
Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?
CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two types of cannabinoids found naturally in the resin of the marijuana plant.
A cannabis-based drug called Sativex has been licensed in the UK to treat MS. It contains THC and CBD.
Doctors could, in theory, prescribe it for other things outside of this licence, but at their own risk.
MS patients prescribed Sativex, who resupply it to other people, also face prosecution.
Another licensed treatment is Nabilone. It contains an artificial version of THC and can be given to cancer patients to help relieve nausea during chemotherapy.
Source: NHS Choices