Medicinal cannabis is to be made available on prescription in the UK later this year, following approval for use by the government.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced the decision to legalise the use of cannabis-derived medicinal products, after admitting the current law was 'not satisfactory'.
The Home Office announced that doctors will be able to prescribe the cannabis-based medicines by autumn.
The legalisation comes following recent appeals for change, which saw Prime Minister Theresa May face increasing political pressure to review the law from MPs.
The confiscation of cannabis oil from a mother who bought the product for her 12-year-old son, Billy Caldwell, who suffers from acute epilepsy, caused widespread outrage and prompted parliament to debate whether they should partially legalise the drug for medicinal purposes.
Speaking of the decision to approve the drug’s use for medicinal purposes, the Home Secretary said: “Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory.
“Following advice from two sets of independent advisers, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription.
“This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need.”
Mr Javid’s decision comes after an initial review by chief medical officer for England, Prof Dame Sally Davies, who concluded medicinal cannabis has therapeutic benefits.
A second review by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs last week said doctors should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis, provided the products meet safety standards.
Since it is a devolved matter, it will require legislative change before it is enforced in Northern Ireland.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The rescheduling of cannabis-derived medicinal products is a devolved matter and requires legislative change.
“The Department of Health notes the advice provided by experts during the two-part review commissioned by the Home Secretary.
“Consideration will be given to rescheduling cannabis-derived medicinal products in Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK “In the interim, clinicians may still apply to the Home Office Expert Panel should they wish to use a cannabis-based medicine in the treatment of a patient.”
Other forms remain illegal The drug will only be made available on prescription to patients with certain medical conditions and other forms of cannabis will remain strictly illegal.
Cannabis is classed as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is judged to have no therapeutic value but can be used for the purposes of research with a Home Office licence.
The decision by the Home Office will now put certain products into Schedule 2 (those that have a potential medical use) and will develop a clear definition of what this constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product.
Before the changes are introduced, clinicians can still apply to the independent expert panel on behalf of patients who want access to medicinal cannabis products.
The Home Secretary said licences fees for applications made to the panel will be waived and those already granted will not be charged.