Patients in Northern Ireland will be able to be prescribed with cannabis-based medicinal products without a licence for the first time.
This mirrors similar changes which will occur in England, Wales and Scotland and will come into force on November 1.
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.
The Department of Health says it will ensure a consistent approach in terms of regulation and patient access across the UK.
A spokesperson said: “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 says it 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.