By Azi Paybarah
This week the New Jersey Legislature could pass the most progressive recreational marijuana bill in the country.
New York may not legalize marijuana anytime soon.
My colleagues Nick Corasaniti, who covers New Jersey, and Vivian Wang, who covers the New York Legislature, explained.
What makes New Jersey’s marijuana bill so progressive?
Mr. Corasaniti: Mainly, two things: criminal records and access to the market.
• First, the bill would make it possible to expunge nonviolent criminal records for marijuana-related offenses (up to five pounds, one of the highest thresholds in the country).
People with past convictions, or who are incarcerated or on parole, would be eligible for a clean slate, and they could request expungement online.
• Second, the state would require that at least 10 percent of licenses for marijuana businesses go to small companies. Those licenses would be geared toward low-income or high-crime cities, or ones that have had a lot of marijuana arrests.
Basically, places that have been hit hard by marijuana criminalization would reap some benefits of cannabis legalization.
New Jersey would be the 11th state to legalize marijuana, along with Washington, D.C. Wealthy, white investors have traditionally reaped the profits of the emerging industry.
Where would people be free to consume marijuana?
New Jersey’s bill would allow for “public consumption areas.”
People wouldn’t be able to consume marijuana outdoors in public spaces. There would be designated areas for use, mainly at marijuana dispensaries: buy the drug in one room, and use it in another.
The bill would also allow casinos and hotels to have consumption areas.
Also, the bill would allow marijuana delivery.
Where does New York stand on all this?
Ms. Wang: Legalization felt like an inevitability when Governor Cuomo announced his support for it in December. But that was just three months ago; that’s not a lot of time to figure all this out.