Sophia Gibson, a seven year-old girl living in Northern Ireland, has become the first in the United Kingdom to receive a long term medical marijuana license. The BBC has called the issuing of the license a “landmark” in the country’s medical cannabis policy.

Gibson suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. She suffers what her family has termed “frequent and dangerous fits” and was admitted to the hospital just last week after a severe seizure.

It’s notable that her license allows her to only use one very specific kind of cannabis product. According to the Guardian, Gibson can only use whole plant cannabis oils prescribed by a doctor and furnished by the Netherlands-based pharmaceutical company Bedrocan.

Gibson’s family is relieved to have a legal, effective treatment for their daughter’s condition, while expressing some frustration over how difficult the process of obtaining the license was.

The girl’s mother, Danielle Gibson, said, “This decision is a life-changer and a life-saver for Sophia. But no family should have to fight this hard, for so long, for something that so obviously has a benefit.”

Before the granting of Sophia’s license, her family had to travel to the Netherlands to get her cannabis oil treatment. “We hope that following Sophia’s journey other children and adults across the UK can access the same treatment without having to uproot their lives to travel or move abroad,” Danielle Gibson said.
Peter Carroll, a medical cannabis advocate from the End Our Pain campaign, an organization which was instrumental in securing Sophia’s license, echoed Ms. Gibson’s frustrations.

“Sophia’s success offers hope to many hundreds who will want to access medical cannabis,” he said. “But getting her application through has shown that how the panel operates needs urgent reform if other families are to benefit.”

“The emphasis on having to demonstrate that medical cannabis has worked is highly unfair, as it implies that the patient should undertake the arduous journey and suffer the heavy expense of going abroad to a country in which medical cannabis is legal before making an application.”

Under the current MMJ system in the United Kingdom, licenses are handed out one at a time after review by an “expert panel.” Gibson is one of the first to receive a license in the current system.

Photo via Flickr Hernán Piñera