Cannabis-derived products will be made available for doctors to prescribe for certain medical treatments later this year, the government has announced.
The Home Office insisted that possession of cannabis, which is a class B drug, will still be illegal.
The announcement comes on the back of two young boys with rare forms of epilepsy – Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley – displaying improved symptoms having been granted short-term licenses to use medical cannabis, which does not contain the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Their cases made national headlines, and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recently advised the government to allow cannabis-derived products to be given to certain people with health conditions who could benefit from the drug.
People with diabetes are among those who could benefit, with cannabinoid substances shown to lower inflammation, pain from neuropathy and improve blood sugar control in various studies.
Home secretary Sajid Javid 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 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.”
Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, has backed calls for clinicians to be able prescribe medicinal cannabis. She had previously conducted a review of the evidence base and concluding there were benefits to be had.
Sir Mike Penning, co-chairman of the recently established cross-party parliamentary group on Medical Cannabis Under Prescriptio, said: “This announcement brings hope to many thousands of people. However, there is still a very important body of work to define exactly which products will be allowed and how they will be regulated.”
Before the changes are implemented, clinicians will be able to apply to the independent expert panel on behalf of patients who request cannabis-derived treatment. The home secretary has confirmed license fees will be waived.

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