ABSTRACT Aims To describe the empirical construction and initial validation of the Cannabis Use Problems Identification Test (CUPIT), a brief self-report screening instrument for detection of currently and potentially problematic cannabis use. Design In a three-phase prospective design an item pool of candidate questions was generated from a literature review and extensive expert consultation. The CUPIT internal structure, cross-sectional and longitudinal psychometric properties were then systematically tested among heterogeneous past-year users. Participants Volunteer participants were 212 high-risk adolescents (n = 138) and adults (n = 74) aged 13–61 years from multiple community settings. Measurements The comprehensive assessment battery included several established measures of cannabis-related pathology for CUPIT validation, with DSM-IV/ICD-10 diagnoses of cannabis use disorders as criterion standard. Findings Sixteen items loading highly on two subscales derived from principal components analysis exhibited good to excellent test–retest (0.89–0.99) and internal consistency reliability (0.92, 0.83), and highly significant ability to discriminate diagnostic subgroups along the severity continuum (non-problematic, risky, problematic use). Twelve months later, baseline CUPIT scores demonstrated highly significant longitudinal predictive utility for respondents’ follow-up diagnostic group membership. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis identified a CUPIT score of 12 to be the optimal cut-point for maximizing sensitivity for both currently diagnosable cannabis use disorder and those at risk of meeting diagnostic criteria in the following 12 months. Conclusions The CUPIT is a brief cannabis screener that is reliable, valid and acceptable for use across diverse community settings and consumers of all ages. The CUPIT has clear potential to assist with achievement of public health goals to reduce cannabis-related harms in the community.