A congresswoman is asking for marijuana plants to be displayed at the U.S. Botanic Garden near the Capitol in Washington, D.C. in recognition of state and federal efforts to legalize cannabis.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) wrote a letter to the executive director of the living plant museum, which is run by Congress and located near the U.S. Capitol Building, on Wednesday, requesting that both male and female marijuana plants be added to the national garden.
Norton expressed appreciation that the Botanic Garden recently started displaying federally legal hemp as part of its collection, which she and other lawmakers had requested in an earlier letter in 2021. Now, she says, it’s time to feature marijuana, despite ongoing federal prohibition.
As the country moves towards legalizing cannabis, I asked the Botanic Garden to display marijuana plants for the first time, esp given its impact on the economy.
This follows my request that the Garden display hemp, which I’m pleased it now does.
— Eleanor #DCStatehood Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) May 11, 2023
“More and more states, as well as the federal government, are beginning to legalize various forms of cannabis,” the congresswoman said, adding that the House has twice approved comprehensive reform bills to end prohibition.
“As individual states and the country as a whole are moving toward the legalization of marijuana, having a display with male and female marijuana plants would be a historic opportunity to highlight the impact of marijuana on American society and, especially, the American economy,” she said, pointing to statistics about cannabis sales and tax revenue.
Norton asked that the Botanic Garden director respond to her request by May 24.
It’s not clear when the institution started displaying hemp, as the congresswoman claimed. It’s also not clear if it will be willing to feature marijuana given its illicit status under federal law. Marijuana Moment reached out to the Botanic Garden for clarification, but a representative was not immediately available.
As Norton noted, congressional lawmakers have pursued federal legalization—and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently announced plans to reintroduce his own broad reform legislation this session—but the prospects of ending prohibition in the current divided Congress with Republicans in control of the House are slim.
Instead, lawmakers have been focusing on advancing more incremental proposals, such as a bipartisan proposal to resolve banking issues for the marijuana industry that was discussed in a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Thursday.
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Norton, for her part, has been a vocal advocate for cannabis reform in Congress. For example, she’s repeatedly fought for the elimination of a long-standing appropriations rider that continues to block D.C. from using its local tax dollars to implement a system of regulated marijuana sales.
District voters legalized cannabis possession and personal cultivation for adults in 2014, and local legislators have taken steps to prepare to enact commercial regulations when the spending bill rider is lifted, but there are currently no licensed recreational retailers operating in the jurisdiction.
While the Botanic Garden is located in D.C. where simple possession and cultivation is permitted, the institution and the collection of plants are on federal property, likely complicating any attempt to grow a Schedule I drug on site.
The federal government does oversee marijuana cultivation facilities—and it even supplied cannabis to select patients at one point—but those plants are only meant to be used for authorized research purposes.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.