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Mother Crowdfunds for Son’s Medical Cannabis Denied by U.K. Health Services

Another parent seeking access to medical cannabis finds their child’s freedom from life-threatening seizures sealed off with bureaucratic red tape.




15-year old Mitchell Gisbourne of Cornwall, England developed epilepsy after contracting the herpes virus. While his mother says her son finds relief through cannabis oil treatments, the official status of cannabis in the U,K. sees few prescriptions and no coverage by its National Health Services. PHOTO COURTESY THE GISBOURNE FAMILY/JUSTGIVING.COM

The legalization of medical cannabis — a struggle still being played out worldwide — has seen the tragic stories of several children at last moving legislators to action.

In 2013, a CNN documentary about Charlotte Figi, a young girl whose seizures were dramatically reduced by CBD, touched viewers and saw hundreds of families move to Colorado seeking CBD under the state’s progressive medical marijuana laws. Today, 47 states have laws permitting CBD products in some form.

In New Jersey, the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act led to the expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program and elimination of the tax on medical cannabis. Jake’s Law was named after a 7-year-old Jake Honig who parents pleaded for greater access to cannabis finding it comforted their son’s fight against brain cancer.

This week in Cornwall, England a mother has challenged the Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to rewrite its rules on the coverage of cannabis treatments to end the seizures of her 15-year old epileptic son, Mitchell Gisbourne.

“A different child”

At the age of five months, Mitchell developed epilepsy after being infected with the Herpes virus. When he failed to respond to traditional epilepsy drugs or surgery his mother, Caroline, tried giving Mitchell low-THC CBD oil — which can be bought legally in England.

“For two years Mitchell was a different child, going to school and living his best life,” Caroline told The Express in the U.K. of the struggles of her son, who also suffers from autism.


When the low-THC CBD oil available to her was no longer working for Mitchell, she began using a friend’s homemade cannabis oil and saw more improvement. Seeking official help, Caroline found it impossible to get higher-level THC oil prescribed to her by the NHS. And when the social workers who aid with Mitchell’s autism found out about the homemade oil, they reported her to the police. Caroline was questioned and fears she may be prosecuted.

Cannabis treatments considered unlicensed medicines

The use of cannabis-based products for medicinal use remains largely unsanctioned according to the NHS. Specialists can prescribe cannabis treatments when other options are exhausted, but currently most treatments officially fall into the category of unlicensed medicines. Imported cannabis oils were approved for NHS use four years ago, but have so far only been given to three children in the UK.

The U.K.’s publicly funded National Health Service offers no coverage for the use of cannabis treatments. A private doctor is able prescribe an NHS-approved cannabis oil containing a higher level of THC for Mitchell, but public health will not cover the $243 a month expense. Caroline has been forced to turn to crowdfunding on the site to raise the fund for her autistic son’s medicine.

For those seeking equity in cannabis treatments, Mitchell Gisbourne’s story is yet another example of how governments around the world continue to leave important pages unturned.

Brad Cheng is the digital editor of Global Cannabis Times, produced by SmartWork Media. Brad's journalism career spans working as an editor for PR Newswire, The Nation and The Santa Barbara News Press, and as Managing Editor of The Katy Courier, and publisher of Now This in Princeton. His career as a screenwriter took him into entertainment advertising, writing major film campaigns for studios and for HBO.



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