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Cannabis Warning

This is for information only.  We are unable to provide advice on this.


Who is it issued by and how can I contact them?

Cannabis warnings are issued by the Police – contact the administering force.

Does it involve guilt?

Yes – you have to make a clear and reliable admission.

Is it recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC)?

Yes. A facility is available on the PNC which allows an entry to be recorded which does not constitute a ‘criminal record’ but is accessible for police use.

Is it classed as a conviction?

No, but it is kept on the PNC and can be taken into consideration by the Police is you are found to be in possession of cannabis at any time in the future.

How long will it be on my record?

Although a Cannabis Warning does not result in a criminal record, the information can still be used if further offences are committed.

When does it become spent?

It isn’t a caution or conviction, so isn’t formally covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

When do I have to declare it?

You very rarely get asked about Cannabis Warnings, so you don’t have to declare it.

However, it is not covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and so, when asked, it must be disclosed. It is rare for employers to ask about Cannabis Warnings.

Is it disclosed on DBS checks?

Not on a standard check.

It might be disclosed as part of an enhanced check in the ‘other relevant information’ section, i.e. if the offence has a bearing on the kind of work you are applying for. However, in our experience it is rare for cannabis warnings to be disclosed in the ‘other relevant information’ section.

What if I get asked “have you got any convictions, cautions, warnings and reprimands”?

It is likely that the question is relating to ‘warnings’ that were given to under 18’s, as the equivalent to a caution. These are now referred to as ‘youth cautions’ .

Do I have the right to appeal and what is the process?

There is no formal process for rescinding a Cannabis Warning once it has been administered. If you wish to complain about the decision or how the case was handled, you need to make a complaint to the Chief Constable or Commissioner of the administering force.

Each police force should be willing to receive requests for Cannabis Warnings to be ‘expunged’ as part of their ownership as Data Controllers of the PNC. However, this is only done in exceptional circumstances, particularly where a significant amount of time has passed since receiving the warning. If you did decide to try and have the warning expunged, then there is a risk that your earlier admission of guilt could be used as evidence if they decided to proceed with charge in lieu.

Other information

In dealing with an offence of cannabis possession, a police officer will have three options open to them; arrest, PND or Cannabis Warning

The options are listed in order of escalation that would be expected taking into account many aggravating factors.

Cannabis Warnings form part of an intervention framework which was developed to assist officers in deciding on a justifiable and proportionate response to dealing with people found to be in possession of cannabis for personal use.

The framework will be considered when an individual meets all the conditions below:-

  • An adult, aged 18 years or over
  • Non vulnerable
  • Capable of understanding the significance of questions put to them or their replies
  • Not suspected of being under the influence of drink or drugs at the time the warning is to be issued
  • In possession of a small amount of cannabis, consistent with personal use
  • Personal details have been satisfactorily verified
  • They admit the offence

The general principle of a Cannabis Warning is that no more than one warning should be issued and the following should apply:-

  • No previous record of a Cannabis Warning
  • No previous record of a PND being issued
  • No previous convictions
  • Not known to the officer ‘locally’ as a persistent offender
  • No ‘aggravating’ circumstances
  • Compliant with procedure

Useful links

There’s a useful link to ACPO guidance on cannabis possession for personal use , which includes information about Cannabis Warnings.




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Photo of Helpline lead, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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