Gov. Chris Christie Takes On Addiction in State of the State Address

By Keri Blakinger 01/12/17

The New Jersey governor addressed addiction treatment and spoke out against marijuana legalization.

Chris Christie

Beleaguered New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie promised in Tuesday’s State of the State address to take a strong stand against addiction during his final year in office, drawing applause as he vowed to deal with the drug problem that is “ravaging the state and our people.” 

For about an hour of his 73-minute speech, Christie spoke to Garden State residents about the toll of opioid addiction and his plans to tackle it in the coming year. “I will not have the blood of addicted New Jerseyans on my hands because we waited to act,” he said, according to the New York Times. “I will not willingly watch another 1,600 of our citizens die and watch their families mourn and suffer.”

The Republican governor—who is currently facing exceptionally low approval ratings—floated specific proposals, including promises to spend millions in expanding residential treatment and sober living facility options, and to ask legislators for a law that would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for six months of addiction treatment.

“Whether your child lives or dies should not be subject to a denial letter from an insurance company,” he said. Christie also spoke of plans to create a website to centralize addiction and treatment information, and to work with Koch Industries to “challenge ourselves and long accepted exclusions for employment of the formerly incarcerated.”

And—following in the footsteps of Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine—he plans to put together regulations to prevent doctors from initially prescribing more than a five-day supply of opioid painkillers, according to the Times. "Our friends are dying. Our neighbors are dying. Our co-workers are dying. Our children are dying. Every day. In numbers we can no longer ignore,” he said, according to

In a less progressive stance, Christie also once again spoke out against marijuana legalization. “I hope that this will give pause to those who are blindly pushing ahead to legalize another illicit drug in our state for tax revenue or by saying it will cause no harm,” he said. “The statistics prove you wrong. Dead wrong.”

Overseeing a state hit hard by the uptick in opioid overdoses, Christie has repeatedly addressed addiction before, sometimes to fanfare from drug policy reformers. Back in 2012, Christie called the War on Drugs “well-intentioned” but a “failure.” Then, in a speech at the start of his second term, he reiterated that denouncement and vowed to “make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can,” as The Fix previously reported. 

Last year, after bringing an end to his failed presidential bid, Christie announced access to the opioid-blocking drug Vivitrol for some county jail inmates. And just before Christmas, he made the news for holding an addiction-focused candlelight vigil at the statehouse. 

"I will not stand for the idea that any soul is irredeemable," he said at the time. "Everyone has the ability to fight back from this disease, but we have to give them the tools to do it."

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.