In recent months members of Congress have taken steps to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from enacting a marijuana crackdown. But their latest move may be its most dramatic yet.
On Thursday the House Appropriations Committee voted to include an amendment to the Department of Justice's budget for 2019 that prevents the Department from using resources to prosecuting cases against medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it's legal. There have been several proposals to make this happen in recent months, but this is the first time the measure has made it through the committee phase.
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 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.
The Joyce Amendment passing the House Appropriations Committee is also good news because it's one of the rare times in recent years that a cannabis bill has managed to get through committee in the Republican-controlled Congress. The GOP remains mostly committed to preventing the expansion of legalized marijuana, but this new effort indicates the party may be willing to bend slightly on the issue.
Of course, the Joyce Amendment still needs to be approved by the full House, which is certainly no guarantee.