New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says the “War on Drugs” has failed. His solution to the drug problem would involve sending offenders to treatment, not jail.
Christie has said that the war on drugs failed, not because of any bad intentions on the part of those who launched it many years ago, but because it focused on the wrong kind of punishment. Despite what many lawmakers think, when laws are imposed to make the punishment for drug crimes harsher and harsher, it does not actually teach the users a lesson, Christie says. Instead, the punishment for non-violent offenders should be drug treatment. Christie, himself, passed a law in New Jersey abolishing mandatory prison sentences for first-time, non-violent offenders. Instead, those types of drug offenders must submit to mandatory, inpatient treatment.
While Christie’s solution focuses on changing the way drug users are punished, he does not support changing the criminalization of drug use. He is a strong opponent to legalizing any drugs, especially marijuana, as he points out marijuana is often a gateway drug to heavier, more serious drug use. Also, he states it is a slippery slope in terms of deciding what drugs to legalize next. Further, he believes decriminalization and legalization of any drugs sends the wrong message to children. His view is that all drugs should remain illegal and the punishment should aid in fixing the problem of addiction.
The issue of addiction actually hits home for the governor since one of his friends from law school died of a drug overdose in 2014. As Christie describes him, the friend had “it all,” it would seem – a wife who was a doctor, three beautiful daughters, a great job at a top New Jersey law firm. But, eventually, the friend’s addiction to alcohol and prescription painkillers led to a divorce, the loss of his job, the loss of his driver’s license and, ultimately, death.
The friend, who Christie did not name, was found alone in a hotel room, dead at the age of 52 and surrounded by alcohol and prescription pill bottles. While the families of both men were close and would often vacation together, now Christie simply says he misses his friend. He also points out that his friend is an example of how the problem of addiction has no socioeconomic boundaries and is a disease that can strike anyone.
Christie’s viewpoint on how to solve the drug problem may set him apart from his fellow Republicans who take a stricter stance on the issue. However, Christie believes his position is actually in line with his conservative pro-life position. He argues that requiring treatment for the problem of addiction is simply another form of valuing life. He says he values life at every phase and his views on addiction and treatment are no different, but are actually in line with his belief in cherishing a human being’s life.
On the topic of addiction and personal battles, Chris Christie acknowledges that his personal battle with his weight has been challenging and difficult, but he is not prepared to call obesity an addiction. He states that he knows how hard it is to lose weight and how hard it has been for him personally, but he is reluctant to tell others how to do it and reluctant to call it an addiction because he states simply he does not know the answer to that question.
Another question Christie is not ready to answer – whether he will run for the U.S. Presidency in 2016. He again simply states that he does not know the answer to that question at this time.
By Jennifer Fernicola Ronay