• Class B
  • Schedule 1
  • Possible offences:
  • Possession
    • Maximum sentence – 5 years/fine/both
  • Possession With Intent To Supply
    • Maximum sentence – 14 years/fine/both
  • Supply (including being concerned in supply, conspiracy to supply, aggravated supply and offer to supply)
    • Maximum sentence – 14 years/fine/both
  • Production
    • Maximum sentence –  14 years/fine/both
  •  Cultivation of a cannabis plant
    • Maximum sentence –  14 years/fine/both

In practice maximum sentences are rarely used, for more detailed and accurate information go to our sentencing page.

What happens if I am caught in possession of cannabis?

Guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (‘ACPO’) advise police officers to take an 'escalating' approach to the policing of cannabis possession. It outlines three possible responses for officers to take where they believe they have found an individual in possession of cannabis for personal use:

1. Cannabis Warnings

A person found in possession of cannabis for the first time can receive a cannabis warning if there are no aggravating factors (please see below). Where a police officer decides to proceed with a cannabis warning the individual should be warned that:

  • a record of the investigation will be made at the police station;
  • the offence of possession will be recorded against them, for statistical purposes, as a detected crime;
  • this procedure does not constitute a criminal record.

2. Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND)

Where someone has already received a cannabis warning and is again caught in possession, then the police have the discretion to issue an on the spot fine ('PND') for £80.00. If the PND is paid within 21 days no further action will be taken and no criminal record will exist. A PND can be challenged, and if challenged will result in criminal proceedings at the Magistrates Court. Failure to pay will result in a fine for the original penalty plus 50% (£120) being registered against the defendant at their local Magistrates’ Court. A person has a right to refuse a PND but this will probably result in arrest.

3. Arrest

An individual who has received a cannabis warning and a PND and is caught again for cannabis possession should be arrested and taken to the police station. At this point, and depending on the circumstances, either the matter will be dealt with by way of charge, caution or no further action (including the possibility of issuing a further cannabis warning or a PND).

If a person is caught in possession for cannabis and there is one or more aggravating condition present then they may be arrested. The following are considered to be aggravating conditions:

  • smoking in a public place;
  • where there is a locally identified policing problem;
  • if the person is aged 17 or under;
  • someone considered to be vulnerable;
  • if the individual is a repeat or persistent offender.

If caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use

  • AND you have never received either a cannabis warning or a PND
  • AND where none of the aggravating conditions are present
  • AND the police deal with the matter either by issuing a caution or charging

legal advice should be sought by contacting Release.

The above guidelines apply to adults only. Those aged 17 or under will be given a Youth Caution or they may face prosecution. The guidelines do state that arrest is not necessary in all cases involving young people and where possible they should be taken home to their parents/ guardians - where this occurs action can be taken at a later date.