New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has taken a position on marijuana, and it’s clear he will never abandon it – no matter how repetitive the refrain becomes.
Visiting Colorado in late July, Christie again lashed out at the state’s legalization of weed. He is clearly staking out territory for the 2016 presidential race, in which he may still be a contender, despite his administration’s notorious corruption.
He stopped in Denver July 23 and repeated what he said earlier this year about legalization. Voters in Colorado legalized weed for recreational uses in the 2012 election, as did voters in Washington State.
During a radio interview in April, Christie said no one would choose to live in Colorado, a state he claimed was falling apart due to legalization.
“What I said is what I believe,” the governor blustered to reporters in July.
Many marijuana proponents and patient advocates were angered by the broadcast, which they say proves Christie wants to dismantle medical marijuana in New Jersey. The MMJ program there has been struggling for years, with the governor repeatedly blocking attempts to reform it.
“See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado, where there are head shops popping up on every corner, and people flying into your airport just to get high,” he said in the radio interview. “To me, it’s not the quality of life we want to have here in the State of New Jersey.”
All this ignores some very obvious evidence supporting legal weed. For one, crime rates continue to drop in Denver and elsewhere despite the advent of legalization. For another, numerous polls show Coloradans are happy with legal pot, even if they don’t appreciate the image it’s given the state.
Recreational dope simply hasn’t made Colorado a worse place live, no matter what Christie says. But he’s sticking to his guns, if only to position himself for 2016.
Weed will almost certainly be a major issue in that election. While two states have legalized, another 21 allow medical marijuana. Sixteen states have removed criminal penalties for possession, though it remains technically illegal there.
New Jersey has medical pot, but the program has been a disaster since the beginning. The law that allows it was signed by former Gov. John Corzine, a Democrat. But when Christie, a Republican, replaced Corzine in 2010, he blocked MMJ from taking effect for three years.
Three stores finally opened across the state last year, but too few patients have enrolled to keep the dispensaries open for much longer. At least one has said it could close this year if there isn’t more demand for its product.
What’s more, New Jersey’s pot shops offer only a very limited selection – too limited to effectively treat many suffering patients.
In Colorado, by contrast, legalization has gone over gangbusters. The industry is on track to generate nearly $200 million in tax revenue by 2016. And crime rates are down in Denver – 3 percent for violent crimes since last year and 11 percent for property crimes.
Homicides have dropped 38 percent while sexual assaults have decreased by 19 percent. Those are significant declines.
It’s not clear whether marijuana itself is causing the reduced crime. Colorado’s job market and the improving economy, along with new policing methods, could also be lowering the crime rate.