"Let's legalize cocaine," Chris Christie suggested in a speech on Monday. "Let's legalize heroin. Let's legalize angel dust. Let's legalize all of it. What's the difference? Let everybody choose." Hear, hear.
No, New Jersey's governor, who as a Republican presidential candidate in 2015 promised to "crack down and not permit" marijuana legalization, has not had a change of heart. He was trying to show how dangerous repealing pot prohibition is by suggesting that similar arguments would favor legalization of other psychoactive substances, an idea he deems self-evidently absurd. It is a rhetorical strategy he has used before, and it falls flat for two reasons.
First, as a political matter, support for legalizing marijuana plainly does not translate into support for legalizing other drugs. Surveys indicate that most Americans think marijuana should be legal, while only a small minority thinks heroin or cocaine should be legal. People tend to take the view that marijuana is one thing, while heroin is another, drawing distinctions based on addictive potential, health hazards, and social consequences. Such distinctions are exaggerated, confused (conflating the effects of heroin with the effects of prohibition, for example), and ultimately irrelevant for anyone who believes individuals should be sovereign over their own bodies and minds.
Chris Christie obviously does not believe that, but he does not even attempt to explain why, or to grapple with the libertarian perspective, which is the second reason his slippery slope argument fails. For him, suggesting that advocates of marijuana legalization are driven by libertarian impulses is enough to discredit them and their cause. As he put it, "their argument fails just on that basis." Because every fiber of Christie's authoritarian being rebels at the notion that the government might "let everybody choose," he assumes that reaction is universal.
Even as he argues that advocates of marijuana legalization are pushing a principle that logically leads to heroin legalization, Christie says it's really all about the money. "This is the part that liberals love the most: We can tax it," Christie said. "Sweet Jesus, we can tax it! More money for us!" As he has done before, Christie referred to marijuana tax revenue as "blood money," saying "crazy liberals" who support legalization are willing to "poison our kids" in exchange for another $300 million or so a year, which he desribed as "a rounding error" in New Jersey's $35.5 billion budget.
By the same logic, Christie himself is sacrificing children for the sake of a little extra revenue, since he is happy to spend the $100 million or so raised by his state's taxes on alcoholic beverages each year, not to mention the $150 million generated by New Jersey's cigarette tax. In fact, since alcohol and tobacco are much deadlier than marijuana, this money has even more blood on it.