Medical cannabis is being made available on a limited basis under a new five-year pilot programme.
The legislation for the scheme, which will cover patients with three medical conditions, was signed today by the Health Minister.
It will allow for access to cannabis-based products for medical use, with the necessary legislation signed today.
Potential suppliers will now have to apply to have their products examined to see if they're suitable for medical use - and, if approved, they can then make them available in the Irish market.
Once the products are available, the new programme will allow specialist consultants to prescribe medical cannabis for patients with three medical conditions, in cases where standard treatments have failed.
The three conditions covered are:
- spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis
- intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
- severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy
'Victory for campaigners'
Speaking about the new programme, Minister Harris called today a 'significant milestone'.
He said: "For years, families have fought for this programme to be established and for years, we have faced many challenges, obstacles and hurdles.
"I am so pleased to be here today to advance this programme and help the lives of many families across the country."
Minister Harris said the aim is to allow 'compassionate access' to cannabis in cases where conventional treatment has failed.
He stressed: "Ultimately it will be the decision of the medical consultant, in consultation with their patient, to prescribe a particular treatment, including a cannabis-based treatment, for a patient under their care.
"It is important to state that there are no plans to legalise cannabis in this country."
People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny - a long-time campaigner for medical cannabis access - welcomed the new programme.
He said he'll be meeting with health officials later to 'quiz them on the finer details'.
Deputy Kenny explained: "Today is a victory for those that have been campaigning for greater legal and medical access to medicinal cannabis products.
"I would however say that the programme, as the government have laid out, is quite restrictive in that it does not include a number of conditions that could derive benefit from medicinal cannabis, most notably chronic pain."