THE Government is considering proposals to make cannabis-based medicines available by prescription here.
The Department of Health is looking at proposals to allow medicines containing the drug to be made available in certain circumstances.
Under current law, cannabis- based medicines cannot be prescribed in Ireland, although other countries do allow them for the treatment of illnesses such as multiple sclerosis.
Junior Health Minister Roisin Shortall said she was aware of claims that cannabis could be beneficial in the treatment of some illnesses and was looking at whether it could be prescribed here.
It marks a change from the approach adopted by former health minister Mary Harney, who was reluctant to loosen the controls on the use of cannabis.
According to departmental briefing documents prepared for Health Minister James Reilly, officials were looking at plans to allow travellers from other EU states to legally bring cannabis products prescribed for medical use into Ireland.
Under the terms of the Schengen Agreement, which covers movement of people between member states, people can carry narcotic or psychotropic drugs which have been prescribed for medical use.
In reply to a parliamentary question from Labour Dublin Central TD Joe Costello, Ms Shortall went further and said medicines containing the drug could be made available here.
"I am aware claims have been made in respect of the possible health benefits of cannabis-based medicinal products for patients suffering from certain conditions such as multiple sclerosis," she said. "I am also aware (such) products may be legally prescribed in other countries.
"My department is examining the issues associated with applying controls -- similar to those that apply to other controlled drugs that can be misused, such as morphine and methadone -- to cannabis-based medicinal products to permit them to be prescribed and dispensed in Ireland."
A spokesman for Dr Reilly said there was nothing more to add to what Ms Shortall said.
Mr Costello said he "asked the same question of Mary Harney and she said she wasn't prepared to look at it".
He said cannabis had been proven to alleviate pain. "Ireland should avail of its properties," he said. "It is commonly used in most other European countries."