On July 28th, New Jersey Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie made headlines when he declared that if he becomes president he will enforce federal marijuana laws. By stating that, Christie’s position would not only put him at odds with states that have legalized recreational marijuana like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, but it would also ban medical marijuana use.
Chris Christie has dusted off the old “war on drugs” playbook used by past Republican candidates to win the White House. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon all drummed up anti-drug hysteria to help win presidential races. However, Chris Christie may be arguing a position whose time has passed.
In 1990, part way through George H.W. Bush’s only term as president, only 16 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana. By 2014, a majority of Americans (52 percent) thought marijuana use should be legalized. Although Chris Christie’s home state has been less supportive of pot legalization than the country as a whole, New Jersey voters are rapidly warming up to the idea as well.
A January Farleigh-Dickinson University poll found that New Jersey adults opposed legalization by a 52-41 margin. However, a poll released on July 31st, found a 14 point swing in favor of legalization, with 49 percent of voters in support to just 46 percent who opposed legalization.
Ironically, marijuana’s improved standing with New Jersey voters has coincided with a dramatic drop in Governor Christie’s popularity. While weed legalization has vaulted to 49 percent support, the Governor’s support has cratered. A June Farleigh-Dickinson poll found Chris Christie had dipped to an all time low in the state, with just 30 percent of voters approving of his job performance to 55 who disapproved.
Governor Christie’s national standing isn’t any better. Not only is he unpopular with Democrats and Independents, but he is in danger of not being invited to the Republican debate because he could fall out of the top ten GOP candidates in the polls used to determine who participates in the debate.
Chris Christie is desperately trying to gain traction as the presidential candidate who hates weed the most. The problem for the New Jersey Governor is that he is running a campaign tailored to the 1988 electorate not the 2016 pool of voters. In his own state, and all across America, voters actually like marijuana more than they like Chris Christie. In which case, running as an anti-marijuana crusader isn’t going to get the job done for Chris Christie. To put it bluntly (pun intended), his campaign went up in smoke a long time ago.