Presidential hopeful Chris Christie made news earlier this month with statements at a town hall meeting about ending the war on drugs. Does this mean anything coming from someone against marijuana legalization? Or is this an example of someone saying what they have to, to get the job.
This article is the opinion of the author regarding presidential candidate Chris Christie’s statements at a town hall meeting earlier this month.
Who is Chris Christie?
Chris Christie is a New Jersey born and raised politician. He was a county freeholder from 1995-1998 for New Jersey, before getting appointed as a US attorney for New Jersey by George W. Bush from 2002-2008. After that he served as the republican governor of Florida between 2010-2018. To do so, in 2009 he beat out Democrat Jon Corzine for the job, and in 2013 he beat out Democrat Barbara Buono. After leaving office in 2018, Christie registered himself as a lobbyist.
Christie has had his eye on the presidency for the better part of a decade. In 2015 he announced his candidacy for president the first time, running as a republican in the 2016 elections. However, after doing not-so-well at the New Hampshire primary, he suspended his campaign. He went on to endorse Donald Trump, who went on to win the election.
On June 6th, 2023, he announced that he’d run in the 2024 presidential elections; and was part of a town hall meeting a week thereafter. If you didn’t know better, you’d probably think from the coverage, that the entire point of the meeting was to discuss Donald Trump. Christie spent a lot of that meeting (and following meetings) saying anything possible to discredit Trump; the person he endorsed before. Despite the lack of coverage by many media outlets, Christie did speak about other things of interest. Like the opioid crisis, and the war on drugs in general.
Christie’s recent town hall statements about war on drugs
Let’s be honest for a second, whether you have faith in political systems or not, we all know that people elected into office don’t always follow through with their campaign promises. Even the most stalwart fans of political systems must concede this is true, because there are so many instances of it happening. And while some stalwart fans might want to point the finger at the opposite party (whichever it is) as the culprit; the reality is that its standard to politics in general. This idea is relevant here.
Chris Christie recently got some press in relation to the town hall meeting he did in New York with Anderson Cooper. Aside from going pretty hard at someone he formerly endorsed, Donald Trump; he also made some interesting statements about the war on drugs. He only spoke of opioids though; and said nothing about specific actions.
The full town hall is here; to get to where he speaks about drugs, fast-forward to one hour and ten minutes in. The statements came in response to Elizabeth Hagget, the mother of a 21-year old incarcerated for drugs, who wanted to know how such a flawed system gets fixed. When she asked about Christie’s plans for the war on drugs, which so clearly never worked, he said:
“End it.” She went on to ask how exactly he would do that, as he initially offered nothing else after those two words. He went on, “I want to focus on treatment.” He then started talking about how he knows people in similar situations, and that the woman’s son has a “disease,” just like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. He said, “We need to make treatment broadly available to everyone who is addicted.”
He continued that with medication and talk therapy, “We can save – not every life – but many of those lives.” About drugs trafficked into the country, he stated that “I still want to make sure we try to interdict as much fentanyl coming across our border as we can, I would use the national guard to try to do that.” Then he circled back to “But the idea that incarcerating someone is going to make them not become an addict, is ridiculous, and it’s been proven to be wrong. You know what happens, they get drugs in jail.”
From there he spoke about how we all make bad judgments, and shouldn’t be penalized for them for the rest of our lives. He even made a bit of a misstatement in his enthusiasm, saying: “We had 110,000 American die last year of opioid overdose.” In actuality there were about 110,000 overdose deaths, but that’s for all drugs. While I applaud that he’s willing to take that head on; the information shouldn’t be molded per politician whim, or for what helps to back up a point in the moment.
He kept going on the topic, saying “Lives are not disposable, especially when we have tools at our disposal to do it.” While he thinks those using for personal use should receive treatment, he stipulated that those selling drugs, “should be penalized.”
This is all he said about drugs in general. He didn’t approach the cannabis legalization topic, or explain what substances might be used to help a person end an addiction. He never mentioned legalization issues whether for medical or recreational purposes, at all. He said nothing about how he could possibly end a war on drugs, without considering marijuana. He stayed far away from the words ‘cannabis,’ ‘marijuana,’ or ‘psychedelics.’ And this despite different hallucinogens repeatedly showing the best chance for treating addictions.
Things to consider about his statements
Christie didn’t make any hypocritical statements about drugs in the town hall meeting. Mainly because he didn’t offer any hard and fast points about what he’d do. What he did, was say things that go against his general politics. Saying that people need treatment is a bit obvious; he did nothing to go into what kind of options should be available. But for a guy who wants to end the war on drugs, by his own words; it’s a bit odd not to mention marijuana. Maybe that’s because, Chris Christie is against legalization. A strange concept if his idea is to end the war on drugs.
New Jersey, where he was governor, is now a legal state. But that happened after Christie left office. The state also has legal medical marijuana, but that started before Christie got into office. In fact, Christie did everything he could to stymie progress on the medical industry in the state, even saying that medical cannabis is a “front for legalization.”
It took being confronted by the parents of a sick two year-old to get Christie to sign a bill saying sick kids could access medical cannabis. So if Christie is so against marijuana that he didn’t want to help sick people (until it looked bad enough that he had to), how will he end a war on drugs that still centers on marijuana?
His statements sound similar to Biden’s statements when 2022 overdose death numbers came out. A lot of talk about understanding a problem, and an effort to stop trafficking; with no mention of the fact that opioids are legal and prescribed. And certainly nothing about the government’s part in continually allowing them through regulation. Christie made no statement on what to do about doctors prescribing them, or regulatory laws allowing them. He, like Biden, spoke about the issue as if its only about illicit drugs, which it most certainly is not.
Of course, Christie sits on the board of Pacira Bioscience, a company that markets opioid alternatives. Maybe his idea is to push those. He certainly said nothing about ketamine, which has shown to be likely the best option for pain treatment without addiction. He even went on a tirade about how pharmaceutical advertising wastes money, at the time he announced his candidacy. Yet, he sits on the board of a pharmaceutical company…which advertises medications. Should we expect a guy who promotes big pharma, and then pretends not to, to help with pharmaceutical-driven issues like opioids?
So maybe it makes sense that he’s against marijuana, won’t mention ketamine as an alternative to opioids, and certainly isn’t getting into psychedelics. Big pharma doesn’t rule these industries, and is only hurt by them. Whereas Christie didn’t make a formal statement about what he’d do with marijuana as president; it’s hard to imagine a 180° turn on it. Which means though he said he’d end the war on drugs; this cannot be true. In reality, he’d actually keep it going. Talk about hypocritical.
If Chris Christie wants to end the war on drugs, like he said he did at the town hall meeting, that’s practically synonymous with legalizing marijuana. Though the federal government made a sweeping pardon for simple possession cases, it still arrests people for these crimes. If Chris Christie really wants to help people, he’ll have to consider both marijuana and the use of hallucinogens to do it. Or, maybe he’s simply the next hypocritical presidential hopeful; who just wants to push the drugs of the company he makes money from, and say a bunch of stuff to get elected.
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