Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has reportedly given her clearest indication yet that the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in the North is only a stone’s throw away.
Charlotte Caldwell, who returned home to Ireland last night, spoke with Ms O’Neill on two occasions last week.
The 11-year-old Castlederg boy has been receiving treatment in Los Angeles for the past six months for severe epilepsy seizures and as part of that treatment, was latterly prescribed medicinal cannabis.
For a time it was feared that Billy could become an indefinite ‘cannabis refugee’ due to its illegal status in this jurisdiction.
However following the conversations between the two mothers, it now looks like Charlotte’s prayers have been answered.
“Michelle O’Neill called me on Friday night and she has reassured me she will do everything in her power to follow in the footsteps of the Republic of Ireland and look at CBD/THC (medicinal cannabis) on prescription for families who desperately need it,” Charlotte told the Tyrone Herald.
“Billy’s Law is happening.”
Last week, Irish Health Minister Simon Harris said he would establish a new programme for cannabis-based treatment for conditions “where patients have not responded to other treatments.”
These include multiple sclerosis sufferers, cancer patients and epileptics.
According to Sinn Féin MP, Pat Doherty Michelle O’Neill could “potentially” mirror that programme for the North.
“She has to look what is happening with the report (into medicinal cannabis) in the south… but potentially that could happen,” Mr Doherty said. He added, “It’s good news for Billy.”
In the meantime however, Charlotte says Billy will be able to avail of a new drug combination of medicinal cannabis from a company called Greenlight Medicine which is technically legal in Britain and Ireland.
She explained, “Dr James Linden from Greenlight Medicine is a highly experienced pharmaceutical professional and scientist based in Ireland and he has being working tirelessly this last number of months to procure CBD/THC that can replace the supplement that Billy has being using successfully in LA to treat his life threatening epilepsy.
“Incredibly, like a dream come true he has achieved this and on Billy’s return home on Monday, he can provide Billy with CBD/THC whole plant extract manufactured to pharmaceutical standards and 100 per-cent legal in both UK and Republic of Ireland. I am just elated.”
Crucially, the news for the Caldwells could get better still. As fund-raising continues to pay for the burgeoning medical bills in Los Angeles, Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has also agreed to look at a extra contractual referral (ECR).
Pat Doherty continued, “The extra contractual referral is a measure whereby the Department (of Health) can pay for – in full or in part – for the treatment a person receives in another country.
“Potentially, that could take care of Billy’s medical bills.”
Charlotte added, “To date the process has not being completed. Minister O’Neill also reassured me she will do everything in her power to expedite this process, on the basis Billy was refused treatment at home.
“All crossed – including my toes – it will be successful. At this moment in time we have no other choice but to continue to fund-raise.
“Myself and my wee warrior will be back on home turf for the next eight to nine weeks. In that time I will be trying to access a paediatric epileptologist that will look after my wee man long term.
“The plan is to return to LA and have what will hopefully be Billy’s last brain scan…”
She concluded, “Minister O’Neill, hopefully over the next few weeks, will be able to help us. Words cannot express how I am feeling but what I do know is this: My wee Epilepsy Warrior would not be here today if it weren’t for all the beautiful, kind, generous, supportive folks out there.”
Posted: 9:51 am February 14, 2017