New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Flip-Flops On Drug War Policies

By McCarton Ackerman 06/19/14

Christie has failed to live up to his tough rhetoric on the failure of the drug war.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continues to flip-flop in his stance on the war on drugs, attempting to reform drug policy in some areas while loudly remaining ultra-conservative in others.

On a positive note, Christie unveiled a new initiative on Tuesday that will allow police in the state to carry naloxone, a drug which can immediately reverse the effects of a heroin or opiate overdose. Cops in New York City were also approved last month to have the medication on them. He had previously approved a pilot program for naloxone in April 2013 and said that “we have the ability to prevent this type of tragedy and help save lives.”

But despite calling the drug war a failure as recently as this week, Christie has put the state’s medical marijuana program practically into collapse. The high costs and almost impossible requirements have led to just five dispensaries opening in the last several years, while the CEO of the only medical-marijuana dispensary in South Jersey, Bill Thomas, quit last week due to financial issues with the facility.

Christie doesn’t seem concerned by the low participation rate, however, and said there isn’t a high demand for medical marijuana. “What there is a huge demand for is marijuana, not medical marijuana,” he said. “This program and all these other programs are, in my mind, a front for legalization—unless you have a strong governor and a strong administration that says, ‘Oh, medical marijuana? Absolutely, we’re going to make it a medically-based program.’”

The governor had also previously cut up New Jersey’s medical marijuana bill signed into law by former Democratic Governor Jon Corzine, which allowed for people with certain chronic and debilitating issues to apply for a medical marijuana license. Christie argued that the bill “passed with no type of allowances for that type of safety and security,” and was “dumped in our laps at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Meanwhile, Christie continues to endorse drug courts and is a proponent of rehab, parole, and probation over jail time for non-violent drug offenders. He signed a 2012 law which required nonviolent offenders to enter treatment and submit to regular testing. Part of this support comes down to basic economic costs. “It costs $49,000 a year to warehouse a prisoner in New Jersey state prisons,” Christie said. “A full year of inpatient drug treatment costs just $24,000.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.