Congressmember Asks US Botanic Garden to Grow Weed Outside the Capitol
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton already convinced the feds to grow hemp in the Botanic Garden, but now she has an even bolder proposition.
Published on May 16, 2023

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A Congressmember is asking federal officials to plant weed in the US Botanic Garden, a living plant museum located just steps away from the Capitol. 

Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting member of the House who represents Washington DC, recently wrote a letter to Dr. Susan K. Pell, the executive director of the Botanic Garden. In the letter, Holmes asks the garden to include both male and female marijuana plants in its display. Of course, pot is still totally illegal under federal law, but Holmes argues that the garden should recognize the cultural and economic value of cannabis before the feds even get around to legalizing it.

“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,” said Holmes in a social media post. “This follows my request that the Garden display hemp, which I’m pleased it now does.”

Back in 2021, Norton joined fellow cannabis advocates Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in asking the Botanic Garden to plant hemp. The letter, which was sent in on 4/20 of that year, suggested that the garden include a federally-legal hemp plant in its “medicinal plants” section. And although garden officials didn't make a big public statement about their decision, they did eventually agree to feature hemp as part of their collection.

Holmes has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most active cannabis advocates in Congress. In 2018, she introduced a bill to end the cannabis ban in public housing facilities, and she has also fought to convince Congress to allow her home city to legalize adult-use cannabis sales. And although DC’s lack of statehood prevents her from voting in Congress, she is still doing all that she can to advocate for cannabis reform.

“More and more states, as well as the federal government, are beginning to legalize various forms of cannabis. In recent years, the House of Representatives has passed several bills that would have descheduled cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act,” Holmes wrote. “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.”

“According to recent statistics, states that legalized marijuana sales collected an estimated 20% more in taxes on retail marijuana sales than on the sale of alcohol products in 2021,” the letter continues. “Twenty-one states and D.C. have legalized adult-use marijuana. Cannabis sales are projected to reach approximately $33.6 billion by the end of this year and as much as $53.5 billion by 2027.”

The feds are already raking in a hefty share of weed revenue from adult-use states, despite federal prohibition. State-legal weed businesses still have to pay their taxes, and thanks to an obscure tax code, they have to pay more than twice as much as regular businesses do. In 2022 alone, legal pot firms were forced to cough up $1.8 billion in additional taxes, compared to the average company. By the end of the decade, America's legal cannabis industry could end up paying over $65 billion in taxes, even if federal prohibition continues unchecked.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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