NJ’s Gov. Christie, Ex-Prosecutor, Adds Voice to Drug-War Critics


Before he became governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie made his name as a prosecutor. It was a surprise when he added his voice to the chorus of those who say the war on drugs has failed, says Governing magazine. Christie is expanding his state's drug court program, offering treatment and counseling to more nonviolent offenders, rather than prison sentences. “I don't believe that the only weapon we [should] use against the drug problem is incarceration,” he has said. “I just don't think it's worked.”

Last year, an international commission that included figures such as former United Nations chief Kofi Annan and former Secretary of State George Shultz called for legalization and regulation as a way to reduce violence. “It's certainly a plus if well-known politicians add their voice, and it's especially good if it's conservatives like Christie,” says Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard University economist. “I hope the signal is that drug use is an individual choice for adults, just like zillions of other risky decisions, such as alcohol.” It's precisely such signals that have led to an increase in illegal drug use over the past couple of years, after a decade of decline, say the proponents of tougher laws. Strategies like Christie's will contribute to the sense more people have that it's OK to take drugs, says Dr. Robert DuPont, who served as drug czar under presidents Ford and Carter. “As the perceived risk goes down, the use goes up,” DuPont says, “and an element of that risk is the criminal justice system.”

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