In a groundbreaking ruling, two Australian parents were released after facing serious criminal drug charges for giving medicinal cannabis to their autistic son, Callum. Stephanie Lee Mackay and Jamie John Blake are from Calliope, a city located off of the Northeast coast of Queensland, Australia, south of Rockhampton. In November of 2017, police raided their home based on an alleged tip given to police from someone who knew the family. Police confiscated three cannabis plants from the Australian couple’s home during the raid, along with other cannabis-related paraphernalia, and subsequently arrested both parents, charging each of them with multiple crimes. This included supplying a dangerous drug to a minor, a felony drug charge which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
An online petition was started in an effort to convince the Department of Prosecutions to drop the charges made against the couple, along with a crowdfunding page, successfully raising over $10,000 to cover the cost of legal bills. Said Ms. Mackay prior to the judge’s ruling, “It’s been tough. It’s been rough and Callum has suffered dramatically from it.” Added Mr. Blake, “He understands that we might not be coming home today and he’s pretty upset about it.” Both Ms. Mackay and Mr. Blake received $100 fines for the charges received, however, neither was convicted of any crime.
Justice Graeme Crow presided over the controversial case. In an unprecedented ruling, Justice Crow made the decision not to convict the two parents, a choice which has made waves around the world. The Justice’s logic was plainly clear in the statements he made along with his ruling:
“I accept that there’s no evidence that the child Callum was injured. I accept that you provided the drug to him for medicinal purposes and after receiving medical advice. And as [your] counsel have said, your offending comes through altruistic objectives, that is, you’re trying to take care of your child. That law may well be changed next year, and it is, then, of course, you would access the medical treatment that is allowable by law to assist your son as any father would.”
Medical cannabis has been legal in Australia since 2016, however, administering cannabis to a minor has remained prohibited; moreover, the benefit of treating autism with medicinal cannabis remains highly controversial to this day, although considerable research has been conducted into the subject, to be certain. For example, in 2013, research published in the medical journal Cell Press concluded that individuals with autism possess specific genetic mutations known to block the action of endocannabinoids, the major chemical component found in medicinal marijuana. According to Stanford University Medical School researcher, Dr. Csaba Földy, who first authored the 2013 study, “Endocannabinoids are molecules that are critical regulators of normal neuronal activity and are important for many brain functions. By conducting studies in mice, we found that neuroligin-3, a protein that is mutated in some individuals with autism, is important for relaying endocannabinoid signals that tone down communication between neurons.”