During a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) claimed he will “crack down” on states that have legalized marijuana, if he becomes President in the future.
“Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have an enormous addiction problem in this country,” said Christie. “And we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down through the federal law enforcement. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. And the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it.” Asked if he’ll enforce federal law in Washington and Colorado, he responded, “Absolutely. I will crack down and not permit it.”
Considerable research suggests that the “gateway drug” argument against legalized marijuana is false. Sixteen years ago, for example, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that there is “no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” More recent research confirms this conclusion.
Moreover, if a recent Pew Research Center poll is any indication, the tough stance may not bode well for Christie’s presidential prospects. According to the latest poll results, 53 percent of Americans favor pot legalization. More than 50 percent of Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers are pro-marijuana, as well as 68 percent of Millennials. A separate poll from Quinnipiac University also concluded that the majority of voters in key swing states — Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — approve of recreational and medical marijuana, which means pot could become a significant factor in the next election cycle.
Should Christie throw his hat in the ring, he’ll have to square off against candidates who have tacked left on marijuana, like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who’s vocalized his support of medical marijuana. The senator, who’s also co-authored bills to reduce mandatory sentencing laws for nonviolent crimes, including marijuana-related offenses, said, “The main thing…is not to legalize them but not to incarcerate people for extended periods of time.” Though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) says he personally disagrees with marijuana use — and he’s also criticized the Obama administration for a relatively permissive approach towards marijuana — he’s also said that states have the right to legalize recreational pot. Embracing a cautious approach, Hillary Clinton also believes that states are entitled to pass laws in favor of cannabis, but “[wants] to wait and see what the evidence is,” before making generalizations.