By Christian Smith

California is often thought of as the vanguard of marijuana legalization and commerce, but a new bill winding its way through the legislature in New Jersey could put the Garden State on the bleeding edge of pot reform.

State officials are currently negotiating on a marijuana legalization bill that could be the most forward-thinking in the country, said Jake Hudnut, Chief Prosecutor in Jersey City, NJ. The bill, if signed into law, would mean the immediate release of inmates serving time for non-violent pot crimes.

"Jersey City, Newark, and Hoboken ー sort of major stakeholders in New Jersey's landscape for criminal justice issues ー have called on legislators to automatically release anyone in prison right now for marijuana crimes, and to automatically expunge anyone convicted of either possession or distribution," Hudnut said in an interview on Cheddar.

"It will, by far, be the most progressive stance that any of the nine states and District of Columbia have taken."

Efforts to legalize recreational marijuana have been slow to move along in New Jersey, despite the issue being one of Governor Phil Murphy's key campaign issues. Hudnut said that's because he believes both the Governor's Office and New Jersey State Legislature want to build a coalition the first time around in order make the most impact and serve as a road map for other states.

"I have to give Trenton credit. It seems that they want to get it right," Hudnut said.

Hudnut added that the two branches of New Jersey government will likely release one bill together and hold hearings on that joint bill.

The bill's timeline is still unclear. Hudnut said he believes the bill will be released by the end of September, hearings will be held in October, and that legalization will happen by the end of the year.

"Maybe it'll be a green Christmas," Hudnut said.

For full interview click here.