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New Jersey's governor criticizes war on drugs

New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie has called the war on drugs, "a failure." The Republican former prosecutor criticized the 40-year-old program begun by former President Richard Nixon and intensified by President Ronald Regan, both Republicans. Christie said, "We're warehousing addicted people every day in state prisons in New Jersey, giving them no treatment."

The governor pointed to the high cost of imprisoning non-violent drug offenders during a period of fiscal crisis, noting that it was cheaper to treat drug addicts than to imprison them. "It costs us $49,000 a year to warehouse a prisoner in New Jersey state prisons last year," he said. "A full year of inpatient drug treatment costs $24,000 a year."

Christie called attention to a recently passed bill that gives first-time, non-violent offenders a year of drug treatment instead of a jail or prison term. Legislation such as this, and his relatively liberal stance on the issue, put Gov, Christie at odds with many Republicans, including presumed presidential nominee Mitt Romney. But Christie is not alone in his opposition to the current approach to drug crime.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle sponsored and supported a bill to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. Former Republican governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico has argued that legalizing marijuana would result in a 75 percent drop in drug-related violence along the Mexican border.

The war on drugs has cost thousands of lives and a trillion dollars. Drug use continues to rise, overwhelming the criminal justice system. Prisons and jails are overcrowded, primarily because of mandatory minimum sentences for even minor drug offenses. Advocates of reform like Gov. Christie can point to many reasons to change the approach to drug crime.

Source: Digital Journal, NJ Governor Chris Christie calls war on drugs a 'failure'," by Brett Wilkins, July 9, 2012.

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