New Jersey Governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie made headlines this week when he reaffirmed that he would prosecute the cannabis industry in states where adult-use marijuana is legal.
“I believe it should still be illegal,” Christie said in a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday. “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it until January 2017, because I will enforce the federal laws against marijuana as President of the United States.” His answer was greeted with polite applause.
Yes, Christie probably continues to speak against the cannabis industry in an attempt to appeal to the right wing. He currently struggles in the presidential polls — coming in at 10th place with support at only 3 percent in the latest Quinnipiac University poll released today — so it certainly couldn’t hurt.
However, his comments almost certainly are motivated by the fact that one of his home state’s most powerful industries is in pharmaceuticals. New Jersey, a state that calls itself “the medicine chest of the world,” houses 17 of the world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies. According to the state’s website on its pharmaceutical industry, New Jersey also has 126,000 life sciences and biopharma employees, the highest concentration in the nation, meaning much of Christie’s constituents support policies favorable to “Big Pharma.”
Big pharmaceutical companies, especially those that make painkillers, have long lobbied against medical marijuana and favorable medical marijuana policies for the drug’s ability to detract from the company’s profits.
For example, Purdue Pharma, the makers of painkiller OxyContin, and Abbott Laboratories, the makers of Vicodin, are among the largest donors to campaigns against marijuana such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, according to The Nation.
In 2012, the pharmaceutical industry contributed an estimated $33.5 billion in GDP in New Jersey through its activities and economic ripple effect, according to a study from Rutgers released in 2014. Also, the study found that the industry annually generates about $1.5 billion in state taxes and $1.4 billion in local taxes.
Meanwhile, Chris Christie has probably the harshest view of marijuana in the field of 2016 presidential candidates in any party. When grading the candidates on their marijuana policies, the Marijuana Policy Project gave out only two F’s: one to Christie and one to Rick Santorum, in a field of 23 candidates.
In New Hampshire on Tuesday, Christie said that he believes marijuana “does damage to the brain” and called it a gateway drug. He also dodged a question asking him to compare it to alcohol, tobacco, cocaine and heroin by saying he was merely “an advocate for compliance with the law.”
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