NJ Governor: Drug War Policy Must Be ‘Much Different And Much Better’

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) spoke out against the war on drugs on Monday, saying that “we need to do much different and much better than what we’ve done.”

Christie, once a favorite of many Republicans as a potential 2012 presidential candidate, has endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has firmly backed the drug war. But in Monday’s speech, Christie panned usual drug-enforcement tactics as ineffective and promoted often-controversial alternatives like treatment.

“I don’t believe the only weapon we use against the drug problem is incarceration,” he said in a short video released by his office. “I just don’t think it’s worked. And I think we see it over and over again that there’s evidence that it hasn’t.”

Christie spoke at the Camden Kitchen, a soup kitchen and culinary training facility for past drug offenders located in Camden, N.J. He was there touting his expansion of the state’s drug court program, which currently provides 1,400 nonviolent offenders per year with options for treatment and drug testing.

According to the Associated Press, Christie claims such programs save the state significant money. He says that the court’s treatment program costs the state only $11,000 per person instead of the $39,000 required to jail each offender.

Such programs defy Republican orthodoxy on the drug war, but Christie insisted that treatment, unlike jail time, attacks the root causes of drug-related crime: “Our experience tells us that there’s a lot of folks who are non-violent drug offenders who are spending a lot of time in … prisons and not being treated for the underlying addiction that’s the problem that drives their continued involvement in crime.”

However, Christie emphasized that his proposals would not apply to violent offenders. “You commit an act of violence, then, you know, you’re going to have to go to the back of the line,” he said. Despite his criticisms, he also said that the original architects of the drug war “had the best of intentions.”

Christie is not the only governor to call for drug policy changes this week. Govs. Lincoln Chafee (I-R.I.) and Chris Gregoire (D-Wash.) issued a call on Wednesday for the federal government to make marijuana a Schedule II drug so that it can be used for medicinal purposes.

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