Medicinal cannabis to be prescribed in NI from November
Doctors in Northern Ireland will be able to prescribe cannabis products to patients from next month, the Department of Health has confirmed.
This mirrors similar changes which will occur in England, Wales and Scotland.
The department warned that the changes "do not pave the way towards legalising cannabis" and penalties still apply for unauthorised supply and possession.
In a statement, the Department of Health (DoH) said: "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, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency 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."
'Crying happy tears'
Charlotte Caldwell, from Castlederg, County Tyrone, who campaigned for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis to help her son Billy, has welcomed the decision.
Billy, 12, began using cannabis oil in 2016 to control his seizures.
"I'm crying happy tears. It's been a treasure just out of reach for what seems like forever, but to see it in writing from the government is incredible.
"This isn't about Billy and me, it's about a nation. Only relatively recently did our government and country really start to appreciate just how many wee children and people of all ages were affected by the difficulties associated with accessing medicinal cannabis.
In July, seven-year-old Sophia Gibson, from Newtownards, County Down, became the first person to be granted a long-term licence for the use of medicinal cannabis in the UK under a new expert panel system.
She suffers with Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, caused by a rare genetic dysfunction of the brain and results in severe epileptic seizures.