Chris Christie’s Reefer Madness

When it comes to marijuana policy, Chris Christie is stuck in the past.

Christie Jan 9 Presser

Chris Christie says that if he were President he would “crack down” on marijuana even in states where it has been legalized for either medicinal or recreational purposes:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a potential 2016 contender, said Tuesday that if elected president he would crack down on states that have legalized marijuana.

“Absolutely. I will crack down and not permit it,” he said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” when asked whether he would enforce federal drug laws that prohibit marijuana even in states that allow sales.

“Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have an enormous addiction problem in this country, and we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down to federal law enforcement,” he continued.

“Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law, and the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it.”

Christie is in New Hampshire as he mulls a White House run.

Christie’s hard-line approach was the norm until recent years, when public opinion has been steadily moving toward acceptance of marijuana. In January of last year, CBS found that a majority of Americans supported legalizing the drug for the first time in their poll’s history.

A recent poll from the Pew Research Center also found that 54 percent of Republicans do not think the federal government should enforce federal law in states that legalize the drug, as Christie is proposing.

Some may dismiss this as Christie talking tough as he explores the idea of running for President, something which is far less of an easy thing for him than it was two years ago, and that he is cozying up to the GOP base in an effort to placate their doubts about him as a “moderate” Republican. Given some of his recent comments on other issues, such as entitlement reform, there certainly seems to be some basis for the argument that Christie is at least changing the tone of his campaign in an effort to reach out to the Republican base. On this issue, though, Christie has been entirely consistent from the time that he became Governor of New Jersey. Medical marijuana became legal in New Jersey in January 2010, quite literally the day before Christie took office, when then Governor Jon Corzine signed the bill that had passed both houses of the legislature with strong majorities into law. It was left to the Christie Administration to enforce the law, however, and it took several years before anyone in New Jersey who might be medically eligible to buy marijuana legally. As it is, the New Jersey program is tightly controlled by the state in all respects, including the area where it is grown, which is entirely under state control. This is all due to Christie, who was quite open about his desire to control the program as tightly as possible and delay its implementation. When it comes to drug legalization, Christie has made clear that he would veto and bill that passed the legislature that did so, although he has said he would respect the outcome of a citizen initiative on the issue. Given that record, what Christie is saying now isn’t really very different from what he’s been saying about this issue for years, and it is, of course, pretty much the same traditional “law and order” position that we’ve seen from Republicans over the years.

As far as the facts go, of course, Christie’s arguments against marijuana are basically nonsense. As Carimah Townes notes, the “gateway drug” argument in particular was debunked by a National Academy of Sciences study that was released sixteen years ago. That study found that there was “no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” This finding has been corroborated by other studies that have been released in subsequent years. Other studies has shown that the horror stories have have been told over the years regarding marijuana’s impact on  long-term brain function and other conditions are largely without merit and that, on the whole, regular marijuana use may be no more dangerous than regular alcohol consumption. Finally, the history of our War On Drugs seems to make clear that treating marijuana in the manner that we do has done far more harm on a societal level than the drug (and I’m not sure it’s correct to call marijuana a “drug” but that’s another issue) itself would ever do even if it were completely legal and widely available. Like many drug warriors, Christie is repeating the same tired nonsense that we have heard for decades, and the only thing that his policies would do is unfairly victimize otherwise innocent people for no good reason at all.

While this is obviously an attempt on Christie’s part to cast himself as the “law and order” candidate, I’m not sure that it really makes political sense, even in a Republican primary. Polling now shows that a majority of Americans support marijuana legalization, and even larger majorities support legalization for medicinal purposes. Even among self-identified Republicans and conservatives, support for outright legalization has increased significantly and support for medical marijuana is quite high. Moreover, Christie’s position goes against a generally pro-Federalism position among conservatives that argues that the Federal Government should let the individual states decide how to handle this issue and, if they choose to legalize marijuana, to refrain from prosecutions outside of those that involve interstate transportation of marijuana, violence, or ties to international drug cartels. A politician who argues that Washington should be able to barge in and override state law in the manner Christie suggests doesn’t seem to me like one that is going to go over well among Republicans, especially given the fact that many of the people who would be voting in the 2016 primaries are already skeptical of Christie to begin with.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jack says:

    The only time MaryJ is a gateway drug is when people begin using it, like it and try to find more but the source has dried up–so they turn to whatever is available, usually a much stronger drug.

    I’ve drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes, neither of those were gateways to more illicit drugs.

    This is simply more fear mongering that began with Nixon.

    The benefits, both medicinal and recreational of Marijuana are well known and cannot be refuted by “government science”. Stop prosecuting users and get them help if needed, but jail sentences for ingesting a plant the government calls dangerous is patently stupid.

  2. Lit3Bolt says:

    Beyond his inane policy positions, his bullying behavior, his mismanagement of his state, and the fact the state he’s from is the state everyone loves to hate, Chris Christie (Bob Roberts?) will never be President because he’s fat.

    When he’s stupid, he’s a fat stupid politician. When he’s a bully, he’s a fat bully politician. When he gaffes, he’s an unfunny fat man making a gaffe. When he’s on TV, Granny is thinking, “My, that boy needs to lay off the Egg McMuffins.” In today’s political constantly televised environment, Christie loses just because of his appearance.

    At the most, he could be a Veep. That may be his entire schtick. But could he swing NJ in a Presidential election in 2016? All signs point to no.

  3. Slugger says:

    This along with his recent advocacy of means testing Social Security are unpopular stances. I don’t see any upside for him. He must know that his chances for national office just went down the tubes. Is he aiming for a Palin/Huckabee type of post-politics media role? The media role is a gravy train without responsibility, and he already has the Huckabee body type.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    He’s not stuck in the past. He’s campaigning to the GOP base and they’re stuck in this past.

  5. ernieyeball says:

    This is simply more fear mongering that began continued with Nixon.

    “If you want a good smoke, try one of these!” (1936)

  6. grumpy realist says:

    Another gedankenexperiement, but I wonder what would happen if we legalized everything that people could grow in their back yards.

    I read an argument once that it’s not drugs themselves that are bad, it’s the purification of the material down to mind-zapping potency that wrecks havoc.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    I get medical here in California due to a Legitimate Medical Condition the precise nature of which I’ve forgotten. The notion that higher potency yields significantly different results is nonsense. One of the great things about pot as opposed to booze is that pot is self-limiting: you can only get so high. You cannot smoke yourself unconscious. You cannot smoke yourself into a coma. You cannot smoke yourself to death. There’s “high,” and there’s “baked” but the difference between the two doesn’t amount to much. Higher potency is the equivalent of acceleration – gets you there faster, but doesn’t really get you anywhere different.

    Christie’s just flailing. He can’t find a rationale for his candidacy and in his desperation he’s hit on “Tough guy.”

    Won’t work.

  8. al-Ameda says:


    He’s not stuck in the past. He’s campaigning to the GOP base and they’re stuck in this past.

    and … this is not at all dissimilar to pandering to the Republican base on the subject of normalizing relations with Cuba. In both cases the time has come to abandon stale policies that no longer have a positive result, if they ever did.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Like many drug warriors, Christie is repeating the same tired nonsense that we have heard for decades, and the only thing that his policies would do is unfairly victimize otherwise innocent yet marginalized people for no good reason at all so they will know their place.

    FTFY, Doug. The drug laws will continue to be enforced as they are now, mostly against the poor and people of color. Rich white people on the other hand will just go on with business as usual.

  10. C. Clavin says:

    Christie should smoke more pot and eat fewer Twinkies…although if he smokes more he may want even more Twinkies…so never mind.
    What time is it? 4:20 already? Gotta go…..

  11. Tyrell says:

    I am going to confess and admit it from the start: my views, purviews, and mindset were formed long in the past. I was brought up literally surrounded by people who smoked cigarettes (Marlboro, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, and, of course, Camel), pipes ( Prince Albert tins), and cigars (Hav a Tampa), and chewing tobacco (Red Man, Days Work, Cannonball). A restaurant door would open and a cloud of smoke would pour out. Second hand smoke was a given as most of the people I was around smoked. And smoking was allowed about everywhere. Those of us in childhood roamed the woods in search of rabbit tobacco, which we would chew and then use for fish bait. But my parents were totally against the use of tobacco and alcohol: anything that was used to get some sort of “high”, relaxation, or changed state of mind. They were the small few who did not smoke. The church we went to preached against the consumption of any form of “evil” alcohol. The high school showed movies of how the use of marijuana would cause horrible brain and personality damage. And once your body became accustomed to marijuana, you would have to move onto something “harder”: heroin, opium, morphine. The pe teacher told us that stuff was being sent over here from Russia ! So that was the era I was raised in. My sole digression was a one time try of some chewing tobacco (Cannon Ball) which resulted in immediate nausea and a missed swimming trip. Those events somewhat shape my feelings toward this stuff today. It seems that smoking of anything is like using your lungs as a furnace, and that would include marijuana. Have there been any studies about possible cancer ? With that, let me say that I am totally opposed to arresting people for selling or using marijuana. I have hesitation about its use and concern about its effects on the mind, lungs, and other organs.
    So that is where I and many others are still at, in the past as it may be (our town voted against legalizing alcohol drinks years ago, and still has Sunday laws restricting business hours: the church is a powerful presence here). And as I said I admit guilt about being hung up in the past. So mete out whatever punishment you deem appropriate. I do have some indulgences that I can swap in, if I can find them.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tyrell: I was raised in a similar age tho my parents were more relaxed. The more I heard all that stuff the more sure I became that they were just trying to keep all the really good stuff for themselves.

  13. Pete S says:

    So now Christie is abandoning votes from anyone under 70 as well?

  14. James says:

    My favorite part if this comment thread is how Lit3Bolt points out that one if the biggest challenges facing Christie is being fat and then the very next commenter makes fun if his weight.

  15. Paul Hooson says:

    Psychologists call this “reaction formation”. A politician suspected of corrupt or unethical practices picks on something else other than himself to attack as a moral evil. Drugs and pornography are common targets for ethically challenged politicians.

  16. Matt says:

    Chris Christie knows all about gateway drugs as evidenced by his large physic. I’m not making fun of the man for being fat. I’m calling him out for being a hypocrite when he rails against addiction. If you want to talk to me about my possible addiction to a joint a week you better not be addicted to something that is killing you (his weight isn’t healthy). Once he gets over his addiction I’ll start to consider listening to the man.

    Till then he’s just bloviating.

  17. stonetools says:

    Christie’s polls have been declining of late . The solution: Serve up some culture war red meat to the Republican base. Expect soon a ringing condemnation of SSM marriage, followed by more burnishing of his anti abortion rights cred. It will be part of Christie’s evolution to full clown car status.