Specialist doctors in Tasmania will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for people with serious or chronic illnesses from 2017.

Premier Will Hodgman and the Minister for Health Michael Ferguson say the State Government is establishing a new Controlled Access Scheme to prescribe the drug to qualifying patients.

Doctors will have to seek approval to prescribe the drug, and cannabis must be grown lawfully under federal licences.

If specialist doctors seek approval to prescribe cannabis for a specified medical condition, such as severe epilepsy, it will trigger a decision-making process to determine if the drug is an appropriate treatment for the particular patient.

An expert panel of clinicians will be set up by the Department of Health and Human Services to assess applications.

Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval is still required to access medical cannabis products approved under the state scheme, but it does not require any legislative change in Tasmania.

It does not constitute decriminalisation of the drug, and it will not be offered by GPs.

“It needs to be a medical specialist with expertise in that particular area of disease,” said Health Minister Michael Ferguson.

Victoria recently launched a similar scheme targeting specific diseases and age groups.

“We're not limiting the Tasmanian scheme to that, we're going broad,” Mr Ferguson said.

“But we're relying on the medical specialist to be the first initiator of an application.”

The initiating specialist will have to stay in charge of care of the patient for 12 months after the application, which also must be renewed every year.

The move has been backed by Epilepsy Tasmania, among other groups.