When it comes to cannabis prohibition in America, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) doesn't just drink the Kool-Aid. He's the Kool-Aid Man of anti-marijuana rhetoric, barging into events to preach the supposed evils of legalization. That's what he did yesterday in Princeton, where he told members of the New Jersey Hospital Association that marijuana was supposedly just as bad as heroin and other hard drugs. But his ludicrously outdated stance on cannabis could actually cost more lives than marijuana ever has or ever will.
"People like [New Jersey Democrats] Nick Scutari and Steve Sweeney and Phil Murphy want to bring this poison, legalized, into this state under the premise that, well, it doesn't matter because people can buy it illegally anyway," Christie said. "Then why not legalize heroin? I mean, their argument fails just on that basis. Let's legalize cocaine. Let's legalize angel dust. Let's legalize all of it. What's the difference? Let everybody choose."
The difference, of course, is that hard drugs like heroin often lead to overdose and death. In contrast, nobody has ever died of a cannabis overdose. Ever. But Christie seems to prefer fiery rhetoric over hard facts.
However, the governor does have a point, technically speaking. Christie's statements echo America's ludicrously outdated drug laws. According to the Controlled Substances Act, which was passed back in 1970, marijuana is just as dangerous and potentially addictive as heroin. But few people actually believe that Nixon-era propaganda anymore. Even DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg has admitted that heroin is more dangerous than cannabis.
But Governor Christie disagrees. And his anti-cannabis stance could cost lives given his role in the Trump administration. Last March, President Trump tabbed Christie to chair a panel charged with finding a solution to America's opioid epidemic, which claimed over 33,000 American lives in 2015 alone. Lives that could be saved by legalizing marijuana, according to current scientific research.
Recent studies suggest that cannabis could actually help Americans overcome addiction. According to a 2014 study published by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), states that permit medical marijuana have a 24.8 percent lower annual opioid-overdose mortality rate than states the prohibit medicinal cannabis use.
Last year, a 2016 study published in Clinical Psychology Review suggested that people addicted to opioids are using cannabis to wean themselves off of their drug dependence. Meanwhile, numerous retired NFL players have come forward to say that cannabis is a much safer and more effective painkiller than prescription painkillers like Oxycodone and Fentanyl.
More recently, Tom Angell of MassRoots pointed out that the National Institute on Drug Abuse - the federal agency that controls cannabis research throughout the United States - recognized that "medical marijuana products may have a role in reducing the use of opioids needed to control pain.” However, they added that "[m]ore research is needed to investigate this possibility."
Unfortunately, that information will likely fall on deaf ears so long as Christie is Trump's point-man on the opioid epidemic.