LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is to allow doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis, following a relaxation of the law governing drugs derived from the banned plant.
Interior minister Sajid Javid said on Thursday that specialist physicians would be able to prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products from the autumn. Recreational use will remain prohibited.
The decision follows the high-profile case of a 12-year-old boy with severe epilepsy who was denied access to cannabis oil, which prompted a national debate and reviews by experts.
"Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory," Javid said.
"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."
Scientists say evidence is growing that cannabis can ease epilepsy and other conditions - such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy-induced nausea - prompting renewed interest in the field.
Last month GW Pharmaceuticals, which has spent 20 years developing medicines from cannabis, won U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the first marijuana plant-derived drug.
Several countries, including Germany, Italy and Denmark, already allow the prescription of medicinal cannabis and last month Canada became the second country in the world to fully legalize marijuana, ending 90 years of prohibition.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Andrew Heavens)