The government did not contribute to a global review of medical cannabis, despite using the same study to justify delays in reviewing laws on the drug, it has been revealed.
Home Office Minister Nick Hurd referred to an ongoing World Health Organisation (WHO) investigation when explaining why a decision on allowing medicinal marijuana to treat epilepsy had yet to be made.
Asked in April how far the government had progressed towards legalising cannabis oil, Hurd told parliament that the government would await the outcome of the WHO review, due in July.
But in a response to a freedom of information request, submitted by a cannabis law reform campaigner and shared with HuffPost UK, the Department of Health admitted it had not participated in the specially-convened study, despite being asked by the WHO to do so.
It comes after confusion over the issue on Monday, when Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested he thought the law should change around medical cannabis, but Prime Minister Theresa May stopped short of backing such a move.
As a member of the WHO, the UK’s health ministers were asked to contribute by filling out a questionnaire on the “status of national control and potential impact of international control” of cannabis.
Member states were, the WHO said, “invited to collaborate, as in the past, in this process by providing accurate information as requested in the questionnaires and concerning substances under review.”
But the Department of Health said in its response to the freedom of information request that it would not participate in the WHO process.
Peter Reynolds, of the cannabis law reform group CLEAR UK, which submitted the FOI, told HuffPost it showed the government’s position on using the drug as a medicine was unravelling.
“The government’s line on cannabis changes in subtle steps as their position becomes ever more ridiculous,” he said. “Ministers have said repeatedly in the Commons that they will wait for the WHO’s committee to report.
“The government has been using the WHO study as its latest flimsy excuse, but the truth is they have already rejected this out of hand. Coupled with that, the idea there is an established process for medicinal cannabis is totally wrong.
“These are bare-faced lies.”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Saturday he would use emergency powers to grant a temporary Schedule 1 medical licence to 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, who lives with severe epilepsy and had a supply of medicinal cannabis confiscated when his mother attempted to bring it into the UK from Canada.
Caldwell’s condition was described by doctors as “life threatening” on Friday, and he finally received medicinal cannabis oils on Sunday.
His mother, Charlotte Caldwell, has said Billy has not had a seizure since, and that she now wants to meet Javid and May to lobby for a permanent change in the law.
Another young boy with epilepsy, Alfie Dingley, 6, is awaiting the treatment.
Alfie’s mother, Hannah Deacon, said further delay in her son’s treatment with medical cannabis was “cruel”. She told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that she had received reassurance from May three months ago.
The Department of Health and Social Care had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.