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In recent months members of Congress have taken steps to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from enacting a medical marijuana crackdown. But their latest move may be their most dramatic so far.

The House Appropriations Committee has passed the so-called Joyce Amendment, which restricts Department of Justice funding for prosecuting state-approved medical cannabis programs. The passage marks the first time the committee has addressed the issue, and the first time such an amendment has passed through regular order in the committee.

“Today marks a victory for medical marijuana programs and a loss for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Passage of this amendment through regular order in the appropriations committee represents another big step in the normalization of state level marijuana reform in the Congress of the United States.” – NORML Political Director Justin Strekal in a press release.

The amendment was blocked last year by Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a Republican and cannabis prohibitionist. The amendment was offered by David Joyce, a Republican from Ohio.

State-approved medical cannabis programs have been protected from federal interference via an amendment in annual spending bills

That amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, does not allow federal funds to be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Technically this amendment, known as the Joyce Amendment, is no different than the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment that’s already in effect. But, the current amendment is attached to a spending bill that expires this fall. The Joyce Amendment is attached to the Department of Justice’s budget for the fiscal year 2019, meaning it would expire later.

It also means Congress would not have to renew the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment when the current budget expires in the fall, which is always something that cannabis activists are worried will end up on the chopping block.

NORML estimates that there are more than 2 million medical cannabis patients in the United States.

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