Former Conservative leader William Hague has joined calls for the Government to review cannabis laws in the wake of the Billy Caldwell case.
Lord Hague has joined the ranks of those urging a change in legislation after cannabis oil used to treat the 12-year-old, who has acute epilepsy, was confiscated from his mother Charlotte Caldwell.
Billy was rushed to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on Friday night in a critical condition after suffering multiple seizures, prompting Home Secretary Sajid Javid to grant a 20-day emergency licence allowing use of the oil.
The case has sparked discussion over the law on cannabis, including former Tory leader Lord Hague, who has called for “decisive change” to the legislation.
Writing in the Telegraph, he said the idea that the drug can be “driven off the streets and out of people’s lives by the state is nothing short of deluded”.
Lord Hague, who led the party from 1997 to 2001, wrote: “Everyone sitting in a Whitehall conference room needs to recognise that, out there, cannabis is ubiquitous, and issuing orders to the police to defeat its use is about as up-to-date and relevant as asking the Army to recover the Empire.
“This battle is effectively over.”
The former Tory leader added: “We are pragmatists, who change with society and revise our opinions when the facts change. On this issue, the facts have changed very seriously and clearly.”
“As far as marijuana, or cannabis, is concerned, any war has been comprehensively and irreversibly lost.”
His comments come after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested “a different way” was needed while Crispin Blunt, who chairs the All-Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, has urged the Home Office to “clear out of the way” and let the Department of Health take control of policy on medical cannabis.
Billy was discharged from hospital early on Monday afternoon, but now Ms Caldwell, 50, from Co Tyrone, wants an urgent review of the law on the substance, which is banned in the UK despite being available in many other countries.
But Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested the Government will only look into the operation of the current system of licences for use in individual cases, rather than reviewing the law more widely.
She said: “Do we need to look at these cases and consider what we’ve got in place? Yes.
“But what needs to drive us in all these cases has to be what clinicians are saying about these issues.
“There’s a very good reason why we’ve got a set of rules around cannabis and other drugs, because of the impact that they have on people’s lives, and we must never forget that.”
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “There is strong scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can harm people’s mental and physical health and can damage communities. The Government is clear – we must prevent drug use in our communities and help those dependent on drugs to recover, while ensuring our drugs laws are enforced.
“The Government has no intention of reviewing the classification of cannabis and it will remain a class B drug. Classification is completely separate to scheduling regulations.
“Any debate within government about the efficacy and therapeutic use of cannabis-based medicines emphatically does not extend to any review regarding the classification of cannabis and the penalties for the illicit possession, cultivation and trafficking of cannabis will remain the same.”