GPs across the UK will be able to prescribe cannabis-derived medicines by the autumn, home secretary Sajid Javid has announced.
Javid said he will relax the laws around the availability of the products following separate recommendations from Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which makes recommendations to the government on the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs.
The decision follows high-profile cases earlier in 2018 of young children with severe epilepsy being denied cannabis oil which parents, supported by doctors, said helped control their seizures.
On 26 July 2018, Javid said that cannabis-derived medicinal products would now be given Schedule 2 status under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, which recognises their potential medicinal benefit and allows them to be prescribed.
The new regulation is expected to be in place by autumn 2018.
In a statement, Javid said: “Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory.
“That is why we launched a review and set up an expert panel to advise on licence applications in exceptional circumstances.
“Following advice from two sets of independent advisors, 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, but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.”
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the UK drugs safety watchdog, and the Department of Health and Social Care will now decide which cannabis-derived medicines should be rescheduled before the regulations are amended.
The government has reiterated that the move does not pave the way towards legalising cannabis for recreational use and that the penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.