Governor Chris Christie on Drug Policy Reform

It is very difficult for elected officials to talk seriously about drug policy reform (It is easy for them to talk about it non-seriously, but that’s a separate matter). The issues require nuanced dialogue, but the debate is dominated by polarized shouting matches. Reform minded politicians are typically reduced to un-sound-bite-worthy statements such as “I’d like to reduce the number of people in prisons but I am against the legalization of drugs so don’t accuse me of that” or “I think we need to be tougher on violent drug markets but I mean violent dealers not drug using teenagers so please don’t accuse me of being a heartless drug warrior”. It’s a lot of work and political risk to fight for a cause that most voters aren’t too thrilled to hear about in the first place.

I recently had the honor of being asked to join an advisory council to the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. The main reason I agreed is that Chris Christie is one of the few governors in the U.S. who is elevating drug policy reform discussion in a way that both does justice to the complexity of the issues and acknowledges the need for change. Here are two 60 second snippets; the reaction to the second is particularly noteworthy.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

12 thoughts on “Governor Chris Christie on Drug Policy Reform”

    1. He said those “with a drug abuse problem”. Who knows what this means for probably the majority of offenders including casual pot users and non-violently dealers without “a drug problem”.

      1. That’s not what the news articles say. In popular parlance, drug abuse is a catch-all term for any illegal drug use, unlike in a psychiatric context, and it’s too much to expect that in a podium speech to the gallery, he was using it in a technical sense. Not to mention that there would be a political backlash if he indeed meant it in that way.

  1. I think it says something good about Keith that he does not hear what Christie plainly says, which is that he plans to impose mandatory “treatment” for everyone caught in the drug dragnet, because all offenders have a drug problem, by definition. Funny how the party that supposedly hates the Nanny State so much so often sees itself as called by God The Father of The Desert Peoples to impose on everyone else in the minutest detail, ” because we want to help you.”

    By linking a tiny course change in the drug war (akin to using bombs ok, but chemical weapons not ok) to his dog whistles to the religious right in the clip, Christie clearly hopes that he can get some progress on reducing the bill for the drug war while doing nothing to question any of its basic assumptions or irritating any of the drug warriors.

  2. Pretty much what everybody else says. Anytime you hear someone call for mandatory “treatment” you can stop listening, you know they have nothing to say. Ditto anyone who talks as if the drug laws are aimed at people who have problems due to drug use.

    I’m a lot more encouraged by the State legislators in WA & VA (and maybe elsewhere?) who are sponsoring legislation to change the cannabis laws. None of those will pass anytime soon, I suppose, but that’s how change will come.

  3. What Christie says is as apparent as the sun is hot.
    The War on Drugs is a dismal failure:

    After 40 years, the United States’ war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread. Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn’t worked. “In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. “Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.”

    The War on Drugs has failed? Duh.
    That Keith calls attention to Christie’s saying the sun is hot, is more a measure of just how sclerotic, faith-driven, and hopelessly bloated American politics has become.
    And that Christie has to “tiptoe” in his remarks on little cat feet, apologetically as it were, is a measure of how “throwing war money” at the drug problem, will still probably prevail.
    After all, for Tea Party Nation it is far more palatable to lock up black men on drugs, then it is to treat them…

    1. One more thing…

      Someone needs to do a mash-up of the videos, subbing in the word “food” for “drug”.
      I mean really, being scolded by an obese man about the high cost of drug addiction is a little distasteful.
      It’s like a perverted preacher going on about family values…

      Which will cost the culture more in the long run: drug addiction or obesity?
      According to this, it is a virtual tie in the short run.
      But who knows how much the obese will increase the cost of Medicare 10 years from now?
      One thing is for sure: The taxpayers of NJ will pay for Christie’s triple bypass.
      Perhaps he needs to jump up and down about that too…

  4. We’ll see what they fund, if anything. If a state decriminalized marijuana, would they save enough in revenues to pay for treatment of offenders against the law who also have a more serious drug problem?

  5. Agree with everyone on the “treatment” dogwhistle…..probably gonna give a bunch of money to churches to do some talkin ’bout jesus to these folks.

    More importantly…….what the hell are the two state troopers doing standing next to the governor in that bottom clip? Do they distrust their state legislators so much that they think that one of them might rush this behemoth in the middle of his speech??? That’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. Do they do that in other states as well?

  6. Why are there always snacks at Christie events? Has anyone checked his blood sugar? He must have a sugar jones.

    There is enough junk food in the background of the first picture to give 50 sugar junkies a fix.

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