On Marijuana, Chris Christie Remains the Republican Outlier

But even the New Jersey governor concedes "the war on drugs has been a failure."



During last night's Republican presidential debate, three of four candidates who addressed marijuana legalization—Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina—agreed that the issue should be left for the states to decide. The outlier, as usual, was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has promised that if he is elected president he will vigorously enforce the federal ban on marijuana in states that have legalized the drug.

Perhaps cognizant of the fact that most Americans support legalization and that most Republicans support a federalist approach to the issue, Christie tried to soften his hardline stance by claiming "I'm not against medical marijuana." But as Scott Shackford noted last night, Christie opposed his state's medical marijuana law (which was signed by his predecessor), dragged his feet in implementing it, and vetoed legislation designed to ease access for patients younger than 18. As recently as June 2014, Christie called medical marijuana programs "a front for legalization."

Furthermore, as Rand Paul pointed out during the debate, Christie as president would override the medical marijuana law he now claims to support as governor. Federal law makes no distinction between medical and recreational use, and Christie has said he would enforce federal law. Among other things, that means raiding the "alternative treatment centers" that supply marijuana to New Jersey patients, seizing the properties, and prosecuting the people who run the centers for multiple felonies. Given Christie's warning that Coloradans will no longer be able to smoke pot under his administration, his crackdown might even mean arresting patients for possessing a plant that New Jersey recognizes as a medicine but the federal government does not.

Jeb Bush, who unlike Christie says states should be free to set their own marijuana policies, also suggested that he supports access to the drug for bona fide patients. Although he opposed a 2014 Florida ballot initiative that would have legalized medical use, Bush said, he supported a law authorizing the use of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil as a "last resort" for patients with epilepsy or cancer. That program, assuming it's implemented, will not help patients with other conditions or patients who need THC for symptom relief. Still, it's telling that pretty much everyone (including former drug czar Bill Bennett) feels compelled to support some kind of access to cannabis-based medicine, a policy that has long been favored by a large majority of Americans.

It is also significant that Paul, Bush, Fiorina, and Christie all were at least implicitly critical of the war on drugs, supporting treatment rather than jail for addicts—"more rehabilitation and less incarceration," as Paul put it. "I'm for rehabilitation," Christie said. "I think the war on drugs has been a failure." What Christie means by that, of course, is not quite the same as what Rand Paul (or even President Obama) means. Furthermore, the "drug court" system that all four candidates seemed to support relies on the continued criminalization of drug users, who are forced to choose between jail and treatment.

On a related point, Bush never managed to address the "hypocrisy" issue raised by Paul (not for the first time): Although Bush, a rich white guy, admits he smoked pot with impunity in high school, he supports the criminalization of cannabis users, which disproportionately affects poor blacks and Hispanics. "The people going to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics," Paul said. "Yet the rich kids who use drugs aren't." That gave Bush an opportunity to say that he, like three-quarters of the population, does not think pot smokers should be treated like criminals. But that would raise an obvious question about his continued support for pot prohibition: If using marijuana is not a crime, why should it be a crime to help people use it?

NEXT: All's Not Well in Wellington

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  1. I’ve been wondering if New Jersey Democrat Chris Christie knows at this point he’s never going to be president and is angling to be someone’s attorney general. I can see any one of these other bitches getting in the White House and appointing Christie to go hog wild in an anti-federalism frenzy against state-legal marijuana.

    1. How about we name him ambassador to Rwanda instead?

      1. What did the Rwandans ever do to us?

        1. What have they ever done for us?

          1. Made us feel better about the state of our country?

            1. They’d have to buy a bigger cauldron.

    2. I always thought that his real goal was the attorney general position.

    3. Chris Christie, wants everyone in prison. What do you expect from a former federal asshole prosecutor. Bringing over inflated charges and laughing at people who get prosecuted under bull shit statutes, are the only thing prosecutors know how to do. They all make six figures plus free healthcare for life just to second guess others. Christie, is a disgrace to society. He would never curtail the war on drugs. And he would give prosecutors and law enforcement even more power than they already have. So, hopefully his campaign goes nowhere.

      1. As a prosecutor, the WOD was his bread and butter. We can see how that worked out.

    4. Exactly. Christie wants everyone in prison.

    5. First of Etiquette,

      Christie, is nothing but a power hungry, former federal prosecuting, fat ass. He wants to micromanage every ones life. That’s all prosecutors know how to do.

  2. Screw all of these hypocrites, except Paul, and even he could do better from a libertarian perspective.

    I don’t believe forced treatment is much of a step forward, more like sideways.

    1. You can’t treat marijuana addiction – one puff and you’re hooked for life.
      Liquor helps, but there is always the sweet call of the Bud.

      1. +1 Reefer Madness

      2. Your lucky Christie’s fat ass does not lock you up just for talking about bud.

    2. I don’t believe forced treatment is much of a step forward, more like sideways.

      “We used to think you were evil; now we know you’re merely sick and misguided.”

      1. At least people respect evil.

        Death by condescension is far worse. But that was they’re goal all along. They needed to destroy the glorious bad guy image. Hence the clinical execution of the states will

        1. “They are goal” what? Oriented? Driven? Scored?


          1. I HAD NOT FINISHED MY FIRST CUP OF COFFEE! I thought we had rules about pre-am link posts around here…dick

  3. I was particularly disappointed in Carly on the WoD. She seems like a shadow drug warrior – not leading, but in the pack shouting ‘burn the witch’. Too bad, because on so many other issues she is wonderful.

  4. My God in heaven, the radio this AM:




    This country is SO fucked. But you already knew this…


  5. baby steps are better then no steps though the rehab and treatment industry will explode making it tougher to stop the forced rehabs. So I guess we are all just doomed to fiscal insolvency and a collapse of our entire system eventually.



    2. As a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, I must say that compulsory rehab is about the dumbest possible response to the problem of addiction. The nature of addiction is such that recovery is really only possible when the patient truly commits him/herself to the process, i.e., compulsory treatment is extremely unlikely to be effective.

      But much worse is that the presence of individuals who’ve been ordered into treatment is detrimental to its effectiveness for the rest of the patients, who are in treatment because they know they need it. Much of the standard treatment for addiction (however unscientific/unproven it may be) involves “group therapy”, and its success depends largely on the honesty/commitment of the subjects/patients in therapy. Once the patient cohort starts to include a “critical mass” of people who are unwilling participants in the process, the effectiveness of treatment is diminished, if not completely undermined, by the negativity and denial of those compelled to participate (or even righteous indignation, for recreational users forced into treatment but who are not, in fact, addicts).

      I have a friend in a certain 12-step program who was ordered by the court, as a condition of probation, to find and work with a “sponsor” in the program. Put bluntly, the court has ordered him to befriend a complete stranger and ask for his/her help in completing the steps of the recovery program. Facepalm, hth, doesn’t even begin to explain how ridiculous this is.

  6. even the New Jersey governor concedes “the war on drugs has been a failure.”

    “But what the heck, let’s double down.”

    1. We just have to fail harder, then everything will be fine.

    2. By “failure”, he means “there are still people not yet imprisoned.”

  7. So, I gather there was some kind of debate last night?

    Honestly, I don’t want to know.

    1. *points to door*

      Just kidding. I watched it ironically.

      1. I decided watching paint dry would be more rewarding.

  8. Christie is a funny guy. I’m too lazy to google it now, but the other day when challenged about NJ being 50th on the list of states being conducive to business he responded “Well, you should have seen before I took over.”

    1. Although in fairness to Christie, the Democrats have been firmly in control of the legislature for decades, so what he could do was very limited.

      1. Thank God.

    2. Your not lazy at all compared to that power hungry fat ass, Christie!

    3. I think New Jersey is a pretty cool guy. Eh hugs Obama and doesn’t afraid of anything.

  9. Christie is just promising to follow the and do his job if he is elected to it. I do not see what the problem is.

  10. Christie is just promising to follow the and do his job if he is elected to it. I do not see what the problem is.

    1. Himmler, Eichmann, and Goebbels “followed the *law*” and “did their job”, too; do you see what the problem was there…?!
      [*you’re welcome*]

      1. I agree, Christie is a power hungry punk. But, what do you expect from a former federal prosecutor. They have no respect for anyone. Except, for the powerful and well connected.

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