Police will give Cannabis smokers “three strikes and you’re out” warnings when the drug is reclassified next year.
Users who are stopped in the street once or twice with the drug will simply have it confiscated, and be given a formal warning and sent on their way.
But anyone caught three times in a year will face tougher penalties including a caution or arrest and charge for possession.
The new guidelines come from the Association of Chief Police Officers are being unveiled at its annual drugs conference.
The revised stance on Cannabis will come in to effect by July next year once the Home Secretary David Blunkett reclassifies the drug from Class B to the less serious Class C.
An ACPO spokesman said: “It is effectively three strikes and out and you could be arrested.”
“The guidelines are in response to the Home Secretary’s reclassification of Cannabis. You will be given a warning for the first two times but if you are caught a third time within a 12 month period you will face more serious penalties,” he added.
Under the guidelines, quantities of up to three grams of Cannabis will be deemed for personal use.
But anyone who refuses to hand over the drug or challenges the police to take action will also face arrest.