A Derry dad who risked prison growing cannabis for medicinal oil for his 10-year-son son with a rare incurable disease said he was overwhelmed with the positive response to his story.

Chris McDaid and his partner, Lynda McIntyre’s 10-year-old son Cian suffers from a rare and incurable neurodegenerative disease called Ataxia telangiectasia (A-T).

A-T is a life-limiting degenerative disease with complex symptoms. Many sufferers die in their teens.

Chris used his experience in researching as a marine scientist to gain information about the medicinal uses of cannabis having seen the positive effects on a Canadian child the same age as Cian.

He then grew the cannabis of the right composition to help his son.

However, on October 23, 2015, An Garda Síochána searched the house where Chris was growing the marijuana at Carrigans in County Donegal. He was arrested and pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court to possession and cultivation of cannabis.

Judge Martin Nolan in Letterkenny Court showed Chris compassion saying: “Mr McDaid had found that derivatives of cannabis could help his child deal with a very, very serious and distressing problem.”

When the story appeared in Monday’s Derry News and went live on our website, Derry Now, the positive response was outstanding.

Chris told the Derry News it was extremely emotional for him and his family.

“I was absolutely delighted, elated and relieved to see the support everyone has for a genuine case, it was amazing,” said Chris.

“When the two of us saw the reaction and support it was getting online, the more we saw the comments coming - we had tears in our eyes.

“I don’t know how to explain it. I was so nervous about putting it out there but then once it was out there and I realised how many people believed in the case of legalising it for medical use.”

Chris said that despite the drug’s obvious medicinal values, because of its criminalisation here, it still carries a stigma.

He said that because of this stigma, some well-wishers wanted to congratulate him privately.

“It basically went viral online with people wishing us well all the way but it still comes back to that stigma,” he said.

“There were people who didn’t want to comment, like or share it online because it was about cannabis but they came up to me in the street to say well done.

“That stigma surrounding cannabis is a massive thing.”

Chris said that he hopes situation will prompt a vigorous political debate, furnished with extensive medical research, into legalising cannabis for medical use.

“The best possible outcome that could come out of all this would be if there was some kind of fast-track process for legislation,” he said.

“It’s not happening quickly enough. Those that really need, like Cian, can’t wait for days, weeks, months or years – they need it now.”

Chris had been following the progress of a Canadian family, the Thompsons, who have two children who suffer from the disease which, although rare, is genetic.

The Thompson family have been able to treat their children with cannabis oil as it is legal in Canada.

Having seen the results, Chris felt he had no choice but to grow his own cannabis in a desperate bid to help his son, whose condition is worsening.

Derry news spoke to Rob Thompson, whose children Linkoln and Bentleigh, both have A-T. He said his family’s story was very similar to Chris, Lynda and Cian’s story. He too first saw the positive effects of cannabis used medicinally online.

He and his wife, Ricki, went to great lengths to get cannabinoid treatment for their children as it was usually only prescribed at age 18 and 13-years-old at the youngest, where their son was just eight-years-old.

However, they were eventually prescribed the drug and it would be treated as a ‘mini study’. The drug was first prescribed by amount per day not in strains or levels of THC or CBD, the components of the drug but after the family tried a different strain, 8% CBD to 6.5% THC, Rob said ‘it was like someone turned on a light switch’.

“Linkoln was walking unassisted, his drooling stopped, his speech was clear, his tremors decreased drastically and he was finally putting on weight which he hadn't been able to do in about two years. This is when we made our side by side video of him and created our ‘Color of Hope’ page. This opened up a lot of people’s eyes, especially all of our doctors.

“They were in disbelief and excited. As for our daughter Bentleigh she has always been a 100 times better than Linkoln in all aspects but she too is on medical marijuana and is reaping the benefits from it.”

Rob said he was devastated to hear of Chris, Lynda and Cian’s plight back here in Ireland.

“Just over a year ago I got a message on Facebook from Chris and he told me he got in trouble with the law due to trying to grow his own medicine for his son Cian because it is not legal there.

“Well, my heart just sank into my chest when he told me that the maximum sentence was 14 years, I was in disbelief.

“We understood the pain; the anxieties of watching your child deteriorate right in front of your eyes. “We were in the same boat and as a parent you would do anything to help and make our children's life better. We offered to help anyway we could.”

Rob said there is still a stigma as doctors do not want to be known as ‘pot doctors’ so he was unable to get medical documents to aid Chris, however,  he sent ‘anything that had our children's name on it with regards to them being on medical marijuana’ and any other material that could help.

“That night after the sentencing Lynda contacted Ricki and let her know the great news,” he said.

“We were so happy for the three of them. I talked to Chris the next day and let him know how happy I was and that I was glad he had a reasonable and compassionate Judge. Cases like this in the U.S.A. almost never go this way and the parent or parents end up going to jail for child endangerment.”

Rob praised the people of Derry and the wider community for the support: “I was so proud of Chris's community after your story came out. The support and love that people showed for him was just amazing. I didn't expect to see any negative comments and I didn't. It was very heart-warming to see all the positive support.

“I think medical marijuana should be legalized in every country from Canada to the US, Australia right down to North and South Ireland.

“This plant is making so many break throughs with so many different disorders and diseases from Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, Parkinson's, glaucoma and our children's battle with A-T.”

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email [email protected] at any time.