The Department has announced it will be taking measures to enable patients for the first time in Northern Ireland to be prescribed cannabis-based medicinal products without a licence.
This mirrors similar changes which will occur in England, Wales and Scotland and will come into force on 1 November 2018.
The amendments implement the recent expert advice from the Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in relation to cannabis-based medicines and will ensure a consistent approach in terms of regulation and patient access across the UK.
The Department has worked alongside the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to develop additional frameworks and clinical guidelines to ensure that cannabis-based medicinal products can be prescribed safely and effectively to patients while at the same time ensuring they are not misused.
The rescheduling of cannabis-based medicinal products does not pave the way towards legalising cannabis for recreational use. The penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.
The change will however, remove the requirement for licensing should a doctor on the General Medical Council’s specialist register decide to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products where their use is deemed clinically appropriate and in the best interests of patients.
The ACMD will be conducting a long-term review of cannabis, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has been commissioned to provide additional advice to clinicians. The Department will work closely with other agencies to monitor the impact of the policy as the evidence-base develops and review when the ACMD provides its final advice.
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