In the past, issuing a citation, which means a noncustodial arrest, was an option for authorities, but was not mandatory.
Officials said the new policy takes effect immediately.
The mayor said the new policy would make more effective use of public safety resources.
“We cherish the trust we have built between residents and the police. This policy will reduce the number of people who are taken into custody and allow us to better focus our efforts and resources on building a safer, stronger D.C.,” the mayor said.
Not all people arrested for use of marijuana would be eligible for citations.
Those not eligible include juveniles, people with outstanding warrants or those who cannot be identified positively. Also included among those ineligible are people whom police think will not answer the citation or people subject to another charge that does not provide for a noncustodial arrest.
A person receiving a citation for use of pot in public must go to a police station for booking within 15 days, and can then choose to go to court or pay a $25 fine.
It could not immediately be learned Saturday what proportion of marijuana consumption arrests resulted in custody.