With support for legalization at 60 percent nationwide, there are many politicians less popular than marijuana.
Seeing as how he’s tied for the lowest approval rating in state history—18 percent; Nixon scored nearly twice as high and this after Watergate—scandal-ridden New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is only the most prominent example. (As it happens, the last time fewer than 20 percent of Americans thought weed was good and cool was when Richard Nixon was plotting against it.)
Barring an indictment, Christie’s term (and, almost certainly, his political career) will end in January 2018. Much of his time as a lame-duck with *some* clout in Washington—why else would respectable newspapers bother to publish speculation about his chance to succeed James Comey as FBI director?—should be occupied by running Trump’s national task force on ending the opiate crisis, his plum appointment for being the first Republican presidential candidate to abandon principles in favor of naked ambition and back Trump.
Deaths from drug overdoses increased 214 percent in New Jersey during Christie’s term, and opiate overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in much of the country.
Maybe he’ll get around to it.
Maybe he’ll even let us know what his plan might be.
Instead, Christie is slamming marijuana legalization every chance he gets, using all his characteristic wit and subtlety.
During a radio appearance in the fall, Christie called tax revenue from marijuana sales “blood money.” Just last week, Christie declared state lawmakers’ nascent effort to legalize cannabis a liberal plot to poison children—and took credit for the doing everything he could to slow down any change in drug policy in New Jersey.
“I am the only thing that has stood between legalized pot in this state and you for seven years,” Christie crowed last week, during a public diatribe AlterNet characterized as an “unhinged, Reefer Madness rant.”
Why so mad? Because Christie gambled much on keeping marijuana illegal, and lost worse than Daddy Trump did in Atlantic City (without winning his casino losses back in bankruptcy court).
Early in his campaign for president, Christie pledged to end Colorado’s legalization experiment and leaned hard on his obstructionist record in Jersey. When that collapsed, Christie has kept his messaging on point with Attorney General Jeff Sessions—a great look in a blue state, and surely not at all a desperate attempt to remain relevant in the White House.
Despite Christie’s best efforts, weed is so popular in New Jersey that it could be one of the first states to legalize the drug via the legislative process rather than at the ballot.
State Sen. Nick Scutari is planning to introduce legislation to do just that, with support from Senate President Stephen Sweeney. Since Democrats control the state legislature in Jersey, lawmakers can sign on without any fear of a backroom backstab. Legalization is so mainstream in Jersey that the Star-Ledger, the state’s largest newspaper, published an editorial in support.
Voters like it so much that Phil Murphy, the leading Democratic candidate to fill Christie’s ample shoes, says he supports the effort. Murphy’s probable Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, will likely do whatever she can to distance herself from her toxic predecessor, which is why she has yet to take a stance on the issue.
If anything, marijuana will likely hurt Guadagno.
New Jersey approved medical marijuana way back in 2012. Five years on, the state only has five dispensaries, which are allowed to serve only 11,800 patients, as NJ.com recently reported.
Considering that studies in other states have shown opiate deaths drop by more than 10 percent in states where medical marijuana is legal, and overdose deaths doubled during Christie’s tenure, you could absolutely make the argument that Chris Christie’s policies have literally killed people.
Considering Guadagno was Christie’s second-in-command during his entire term in office, she’ll have to do some explaining—and, if she’s smart, some distancing.
As it is, she’s shied away from criticizing Christie, going as far as to say that she believes him when he says he had no knowledge of the brewing Bridgegate scandal. (Note: She is one of only a few credulous souls in New Jersey who think this way.)
Scutari might wait until he has a friendly governor next year to push legalization hard, as Chris Christie appears more than willing to squander what little political capital he has left by waging a vastly unpopular and ultimately futile fight against marijuana.
If he had really wanted to do nothing but be a barrier—literally and figuratively—he’d have served his state better by laying down in traffic. He’d have saved lives.