Cannabis-based products for medicinal use can now be prescribed by specialist hospital doctors in NI for their patients with an unmet clinical need from today (1 November 2018).
This will remove the need for prescribing, supply and possession licences to be issued by the Department of Health.
It is important that prescribing decisions are taken by expert clinicians informed by evidence on quality, safety and effectiveness. Therefore, prescribing of cannabis-based products for medicinal use is restricted to clinicians listed on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council. Cannabis-based products for medicinal use will not be available from General Practitioners.
This approach mirrors similar changes occurring in England, Scotland and Wales and ensures that patients living in Northern Ireland are able to access cannabis-based products for medicinal use on the same terms as patients elsewhere in 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. This is to ensure that cannabis-based medicinal products can be prescribed safely and effectively while at the same time ensuring they are not misused. Furthermore, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has been commissioned to provide additional advice to clinicians, and the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will be conducting a long term review of cannabis use for medicinal purposes. The Department will continue to work closely with these agencies to monitor the impact of this policy.
It is important to note that the rescheduling of cannabis-based products for medicinal use does not pave the way towards legalising cannabis for recreational use. The penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.
Further information for patients is available: