Expungement must be a part of new pot law | Jersey Journal editorial

Posted Feb 5, 2019

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, left, and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, seen in a 2014 file photo, are pushing for greater social justice provisions in legislation that would legalize recreational pot in New Jersey. 


When it comes to proposed marijuana legalization legislation, we stand with the mayors of the state’s two biggest cities in their demand that automatic and immediate expungement for certain past convictions be included.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka held a joint appearance last week vowing that they won’t allow marijuana dispensaries in their cities if stronger social justice provisions aren’t included in the legal pot legislation that eventually becomes law in New Jersey.

The current version of proposed legislation would carry with it “deep-seated inequalities,’’ Baraka said.

As we noted last month, to be fair, legislators must ensure immediate expungements of criminal records for past actions that will be legal under new laws.

Far too many lives -- particularly in the black and Hispanic communities -- have been adversely affected by arrests and incarceration for low-level possession and distribution, a prime reason many support legalization. In order for those affected in the past to move forward, their records need to be wiped clean.

“It would be a major contradiction that someone in our community will remain haunted by a past marijuana arrest while corporations throughout the state will make millions of dollars for selling the same product,’’ Fulop said in a statement. “No matter where you stand on legalization, expungement touches every municipality throughout our state.”

State legislators are to restart their discussions on legalizing marijuana this month. They must listen to Fulop, Baraka and other mayors pushing for automatic and immediate expungements and get the legislation right.

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