Clinicians will be able to prescribed cannabis products for patients with a "clinical need".
Specialist clinicians will be able to prescribe cannabis-derived products to patients with an "exceptional clinical need" by the autumn, the home secretary has announced.
Over 40 countries, including Italy, Finland, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and half of the United States, have decriminalised cannabis in some form and many studies have suggested that cannabis can be useful in the treatment of chronic pain and the management of conditions such as epilepsy.
The Department for Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have been asked to provide a definition of what constitutes a cannabis-derived product.
All other forms of cannabis will remain illegal.
Cannabis will be available on prescription
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. 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 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, but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use."
The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed news that cannabis will be decriminalised for medicinal use.
Donna Kinnair, RCN Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice, said: “This is a very welcome move. RCN members voted to campaign on this issue because they were worried that vulnerable patients are being forced to self-medicate or medicate their children from sources that aren’t necessarily safe.
“We now look forward to working with the DHSC on defining which conditions the medicinal form of the drug can be used to treat, and on guidance for prescribing treatment.”