MEDICAL cannabis will be legalised within months as part of an overhaul of drug laws sparked by several high-profile cases, including children with severe epilepsy battling to get access to treatment.

Specialist doctors will soon be able to prescribe the drug on the NHS – potentially including forms with mind-altering properties – in “exceptional" cases.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he had decided to reschedule the products, relaxing rules around the circumstances in which they can be given to patients, after considering expert advice from a specially commissioned review.

It comes amid widespread publicity over the plight of several young epilepsy sufferers, including five-year-old Murray Gray from Edinburgh whose family has long fought for access to cannabis oil.

His mum Karen said the announcement was “everything she could have hoped for”, adding: “There are so many children in the UK who will benefit from medicinal cannabis. Not to mention the adults that this medication helps also.

“I am delighted that the government are now acknowledging that cannabis has medicinal value. We still have a long way to go but this is certainly progress.”

Mr Javid said recent cases involving sick children had made it clear “our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory”.

He added: "That is why we launched a review and set up an expert panel to advise on licence applications in exceptional circumstances.

"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.

"This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need, but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use."

An initial review by Dame Sally Davies, chief medical adviser, concluded that there is evidence medicinal cannabis has therapeutic benefits.

And last week, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs insisted doctors should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis provided products meet safety standards.

Officials said they would now develop a clear definition of what constitutes a “cannabis-derived medicinal product”. Only drugs which meet this will be legalised from the autumn onwards – with all other forms of cannabis kept under strict controls.

Charlotte Caldwell has been pushing for a change in the law ever since her epileptic son Billy managed to control his seizures using cannabis oil.

She said she was “almost lost for words”, adding: "That the Home Secretary has announced that medicinal cannabis can now be prescribed by GPs on Billy's 13th birthday is amazing. I wonder if he knew?

"Never has Billy received a better birthday present, and never from somebody so unexpected.

"Crucially, my little boy Billy can now live a normal life with his mummy because of the simple ability to now administer a couple of drops a day of a long-maligned but entirely effective natural medication."

Some cannabis oils contain cannabidiol (CBD), which does not produce the “high” commonly associated with recreational use. However, Billy was also taking an oil containing tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which is illegal due to its association with psychoactive effects.

Before the new changes are brought in, clinicians can still apply to an independent expert panel on behalf of patients who want access to medicinal cannabis products.

Mr Javid said licence fees for applications made to the panel will be waived, and those already granted will not be charged.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the Scottish Government welcomed the move, adding: “It is now important that the NHS in Scotland is involved in the development of clinical guidelines to support doctors and to make sure that products prescribed to patients are safe, including for children.

“We also welcome the decision to waive fees for applications made to the independent expert panel on behalf of patients wishing to access these products.”