A mother and father who pleaded guilty to treating their five-year-old son’s autism with cannabis oil, have walked free from court in what the judge described as an “almost-unique” case.
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 to be assessed for ASD. He has since been formally diagnosed.
While the Australian federal government legalized medical cannabis in 2016, it is only available through a prescription that is given by a doctor after 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 can be used to treat this particular patient with this particular condition. Some that have been approved include: cancer, pain, epilepsy, and AIDS.
The legal battle has caused turmoil for Callum and total disruption to his treatment. The legal costs are beyond management. Fortunately, a fundraising page was set up to raise $10,000 for legal costs of Blake and Mackay. 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.”
In handing down his sentences, Justice Graeme Crow accepted a submission the couple was “trying to do the right thing” by their son, and that red tape making it difficult for families like theirs to access medicinal cannabis could soon be cut.
“Your offending comes from altruistic objectives – that of you trying to care for your child,” Justice Crow said.
“That law may well be changed next year and if it is, then, of course, you would access the medical treatment that is allowable by law to assist your son as any father would.”
Mr Blake was fined $100 for each of his four charges, and Ms Mackay was fined $100 for each of her five charges.
No convictions were recorded.
Callum’s parents are fortunate to have been tried before Justice Crow, who was able to use 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.
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.