Landmark Australian Verdict Frees Parents Facing 25 Years For Treating Their Five-Year Autistic Son With Cannabis
The mercy and reason of a judge who sees the changes ahead for cannabis medicine have reunited an Australian family and laid the groundwork for legal changes dealing with access to cannabis medicine for kids with autism.
It was a precedent setting decision that came out of Rockhampton, Australia in December, 2018. Parents of a boy with autism were each facing up to 25 years in prison for administering cannabis oil to ease his symptoms. The pair are now free, released with a total of $900 in fines.
Stephanie Lee Mackay and Jamie John Blake, residents of Calliope, Australia, used cannabis oil to help their five-year-old son, Callum, manage some of the difficult symptoms of his autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This action resulted in a charge of “providing a dangerous drug to a minor.”
In November 2017, police raided the couple’s home based on a tip from a family friend. There were found three cannabis plants and equipment used for the illegal production of cannabis oil. At the time of the arrest, Callum was still on a waitlist for ASD assessment.
Callum has gained a formal diagnosis since the trial.
The Australian federal government legalized medical cannabis in 2016. It is only available through a doctor’s prescription following a clinical assessment. And it must be purchased from a legal, government-approved source unless you have a grow license. Callum’s parents had met none of these qualifications.
It’s also quite difficult to get a prescription in Australia, which regulates cannabis through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). There are no “qualifying conditions,” only the burden off proof from the doctor that cannabis use can treat this particular patient with this particular condition. Some approvals have covered: cancer, pain, epilepsy, and AIDS.
The Impact of the Court Battle on Callum
The legal battle has caused turmoil for Callum and total disruption to his treatment. The legal costs are beyond management. To raise Blake and Mackay’s $10,000 legal costs, friends set up a funding page. An online petition to have the Department of Prosecutions drop the charges against the parents went unanswered.
Mackay described her son’s reactions to his parents’ trial: “It’s been tough. It’s been rough and Callum has suffered dramatically from it.” On the day of the verdict, Blake went on to say that Callum “understands that we might not be coming home today and he’s pretty upset about it.”
Callum would be parent-less until the age of 30.
Rather than a condemning a five year old to live without his parents for the next two and a half decades, Justice Crow decided that the case would be one for the books.
While reading out the verdict, Justice Crow said, “Your offending comes from altruistic objectives – that of you trying to care for your child.”
Crow believes that Blake and Mackay were “trying to do the right thing” for Callum. Crow stated that Callum will likely gain approval for cannabis medicine anyway after a proper diagnosis.
Does Cannabis Work for Autism?
Many have spoken anecdotally about the efficacy of cannabis oil for treating cannabis though studies are still lagging. Two important and recent bits of research seek to definitively answer the questions about cannabis medicine and autism treatment:
A recent Israeli study that treated 60 children with ASD using cannabis oil [7 months (20:1 THC:CBD)] found that 80% of participants experienced cognitive and behavioral improvements; 62% of these had significant improvement in communication skills.
A clinical trial being run in New York will investigate if the cannabinoid CBDV can reverse neurological symptoms of ASD as it did for the mouse model. Results are due later in 2019.
Fortunately, Justice Crow tried Callum’s parents. Crow used empathy and reason to rise above unjust laws. Many parents around the world face similar tribulation in trying to help their children heal and live their best life possible. #legalizeNOW.