Cannabis-based ingredients have a medicinal effect, health officials have admitted.
Products containing cannabidiol – also known as CBD – are now classed as medicines by the UK regulatory body.
It was found to have a ‘restoring, correcting or modifying’ effect on physiological functions when administered to humans.
But the Class B drug itself has not been recognized as having any benefits and is still illegal to possess.
An MHRA spokesperson said: ‘We have come to the opinion that products containing cannabidiol are a medicine.
‘Products for therapeutic use must have a medicines’ licence before they can be legally sold, supplied or advertised in the UK.
‘Products will have to meet safety, quality and effectiveness standards to protect public health.
‘If you use CBD and if you have any questions, speak to your GP or other healthcare professional.’
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – responsible – has told companies they have 28 days to get a license to legally sell the ingredients.
It follows a review on a cannabidiol vapourizer which was found to help thousands of people suffering from a range of conditions.
They found it had physical benefits and decided to list it as medicine.
It means manufacturers will now have to ensure their cannabis-based products pass safety checks.
Those companies selling products without having a licence could face time in prison or a heavy fine.
Sativex – a prescription-only drug used by patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis – is the only licensed cannabis-based product in the country currently.
It contains CBD and another extract from the cannabis plant, THC, and is given to help ease muscle spasms.
CBD is one of many chemical compounds found within the drug – but it is nonpsychoactive and doesn’t cause a high.
It helps to control brain and nerve activity, energy metabolism, heart function, the immune system and even reproduction.
As a result, a number of charities have intensified their research into the use of cannabis as a medical drug.
This news comes after politicians called on the Government to legalise cannabis for medicinal use.
The controversial document, published by a cross-party group of MPs and peers, said sick people should be allowed to grow the drug under licence.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform also wants companies to be allowed to import or grow the drug, and for ministers to strip away legal controls so that it becomes less regulated than many painkillers.