LONDON — Britain’s home secretary, Sajid Javid, ordered a review on Tuesday of the nation’s policy on the medical use of marijuana, days after a 12-year-old’s cannabis-based epilepsy medicine was confiscated at Heathrow Airport, prompting a national discussion as the boy fought life-threatening seizures and politicians procrastinated.
The boy, Billy Caldwell, suffers from status epilepticus, a kind of seizure that can last for hours. When a seizure takes hold he sometimes starts to turn blue. And without treatment, one could be fatal. Over the weekend, Mr. Javid authorized the use of the medicine to treat him.
The spectacle of one boy’s agonizing battle against an inflexible bureaucracy has made Prime Minister Theresa May’s response look flat-footed, while prompting a wider debate about legalizing the drug itself for recreational use.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, William Hague, a former leader of Mrs. May’s Conservative Party, argued that by retreating and allowing the cannabis oil to be used, the government had “implicitly conceded that the law has become indefensible.”
He cited the debate in Canada, where legalization of cannabis is close. “It should now be asked whether Britain should join the many other countries that permit medical-grade marijuana, or indeed join Canada in preparing for a lawful, regulated market in cannabis for recreational use as well,” he said.
And Mr. Hague, who once advocated a “zero tolerance” drugs policy, conceded that “as far as marijuana, or cannabis, is concerned any war has been comprehensively and irreversibly lost.” Ordering the police to defeat its use was, he wrote, like asking the British Army to recover the country’s long-lost empire.
The call to legalize recreational cannabis use was rejected on Tuesday by the government of Mrs. May, a former home secretary who took a conventionally tough line on drugs during her six years in the job, and seems in no