Medicinal Cannabis will be available on prescription in Britain from November 1.
Currently, Cannabis Oil is only ever prescribed in exceptional circumstances and has to be granted by a medical panel.
Those suffering from epilepsy, nausea and chronic pain due to chemotherapy could all be given the option to get the drug on prescription.
Today’s decision is a major victory for campaigners.
And it means Britain joins countries such as Germany who have already given the drug the go ahead.
The new policy will cover medicines which contain the drug described as containing “cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol or a cannabinol derivative”.
The Government also revealed there would be a longer term review of cannabis by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
Today’s announcement by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who was moved to act after a public outcry over the treatment of an epileptic 13-year-old boy.
Billy Caldwell suffered seizures and came close to death earlier this year after his medical cannabis was seized by the Home Office.
The department then issued a special temporary licence allowing Billy to use the drug after a public outcry – and launched a review of its status.
Epileptic Alfie Dingley was also granted a special licence after his mum tried to bring cannabis oil into the UK.
Cannabis on prescription – explained
Cannabis’ legal status has been changed by the UK government – so what does this actually mean?
Cannabis is a Class B drug and that is not going to change. That means possession will still carry an unlimited fine and up to five years’ jail – rising to 14 years for dealers. And recreational use will be illegal.
But the ‘schedule’, which sets out how a drug can be used for medical purposes, has been changed by the Home Office.
Previously cannabis was a Schedule 1 drug – meaning it had ‘no therapeutic value’ in the eyes of the law.
But after a rapid review, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs announced it had medical benefits “in certain circumstances”. Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies also concluded there was evidence of medical benefits.
That meant the drug will now change to Schedule 2 – allowing it to be possessed and prescribed legally by pharmacists and doctors.
This would likely only apply to certain forms like cannabis oil, rather than leaves that can be smoked.
Alfie’s family said his condition improved after using the oil in the Netherlands – where it is legal – and had given a petition to Prime Minister Theresa May.
His case, and that of Billy’s, caused a huge public outpouring in support of changing the law.
Alfie’s mum Hannah Deacon said: “Today is a momentous day for every patient and family with a suffering child who wish to access medicinal cannabis.
“We urge the medical world to get behind these reforms so they can help the tens of thousands of people who are in urgent need of help.
“I have personally seen how my son’s life has changed due to the medical cannabis he is now prescribed.
“As a family we were facing his death. Now we are facing his life, full of joy and hope, which is something I wish for each and every person in this country who could benefit from this medicine.”
Setting out the new regulations regarding cannabis-based products for medicinal use, Mr Javid said: “This brings these products explicitly into the existing medicines framework.
“These regulations are not an end in themselves. The ACMD (Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs) will be conducting a long-term review of cannabis and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has been commissioned to provide advice for clinicians by October next year.
“The Government will monitor the impact of the policy closely as the evidence base develops and review when the ACMD provides its final advice.”
Rt Hon Sir Mike Penning MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Cannabis Under Prescription said: “This formal announcement makes this a momentous day and I commend the Home Secretary for taking these bold and decisive steps.
“It has reversed decades of backward thinking on this important issue by successive governments. There is still much detailed work to be done.
“Since the high profile cases of the summer involving the young children with epilepsy there has been a very disappointing reaction from a large number of consultants and health Trusts, with many refusing to even submit applications to the interim medical cannabis expert panel.
“Today’s announcement puts the ball now firmly in the court of the health professionals and health authorities to approach this new and exciting field of UK medicine with an open mind. The Government has given a bold and decisive lead.
“Our group is offering to work with the Department for Health & Social Care, the Royal Colleges and any other relevant organisations to make sure that all patients that can benefit from this new development can do so’.
Professor Mike Barnes, the lead consultant who secured the first long term licence for UK use of medical cannabis for Alfie Dingley in the summer said: “This announcement has transformed the position of the UK in this exciting and developing field.
“Many of my medical colleagues are understandably unsure about the benefits.
“After all, medical cannabis has been illegal in the UK for generations.
“But I urge them to embrace these developments.
“There is a rich seam of experience and knowledge in other parts of the world and I’m now working with others to help my fellow medical professionals to benefit from that international knowledge.
“Compared to many pharmaceutical drugs, whole plant medical cannabis products are remarkably safe and, as recent high profile cases have shown, can produce dramatic improvements for patients.”