Marijuana legislation is a more important issue to voters in 2016 than in any previous US presidential election cycle. With 25 states and the District of Columbia having already passed laws to make medical marijuana legal within their borders, over half of the country can now use hemp to treat such ailments as glaucoma or PTSD. In a handful of states, the use and sale of recreational pot has also been legalized, making cities like Denver and Portland more popular among millennials than ever. But if Donald Trump is elected President of the United States, his close ties with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could mean a giant step backwards for progressive pot laws in America.
When Trump spoke with Denver’s 9 News (an NBC affiliate) recently, he was asked directly about his position on the legalization of marijuana. Donald gave a very canned, Libertarian-leaning response: “I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states’ person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.” On the surface, the answer sounds safe enough for most marijuana advocates.
But as the Huffington Post argues, Trump’s close relationship with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie does not bode well for those who want to see the legal use of marijuana spread across the United States. Since being defeated by the real estate mogul in the GOP presidential candidacy race, Christie has been unabashedly in Trump’s corner. Many expected Trump to name Christie as his choice for VP. Now that Indiana Governor Mike Pence has filled that role, many assume Christie will be named the new Attorney General if Trump wins the election.
Given his record on marijuana legislation since being elected Governor of New Jersey, it would appear that appointing Chris Christie to the office of Attorney General would, indeed, be a huge step backwards for the advancement of weed in the United States. Not only has Christie been explicitly opposed to the legalization of recreational pot, but he has done whatever he can to make things difficult for those with a doctor’s prescription for medicinal marijuana within New Jersey’s borders.
Prior to Christie taking charge in New Jersey, former Governor Jon Corzine (a Democrat) signed a bill (introduced by Clinton delegate Nicholas Scutari) to legalize medical pot in their state. And while Christie has yet to implement any harsher marijuana laws as Governor, medicinal cannabis users in his state are having a much more difficult time than their peers in other states with access to the herb with therapeutic benefits.
In 2013 and 2014 alone, nearly 50,000 arrests were made under Christie’s watch for marijuana possession: a record high. Ari Rosamarin of the New Jersey ACLU has indicated that Christie’s positions are forcing some New Jersey residents with prescriptions for marijuana to make their purchases from the black market.
“Everybody thought the state passed a good law until Governor Christie got his hands on it. Many patients have abandoned the medicinal system and gone back to the illegal market to get the medicine they need.”
Additionally, when running for president in 2015, he had some very strong words for pot smokers in cities like Denver, where the drug has some of its loosest laws. In a threatening tone, Christie encouraged cannabis connoisseurs to “enjoy it” while they can, as he would be enforcing the federal marijuana laws in all 50 states if elected President.
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For voters that take issues of marijuana legislation seriously, it’s worth considering where the other presidential candidates stand when it comes to legalizing pot. As noted by Reason, Hillary Clinton supports reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I drug to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, which would then allow for federal research regarding the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis. Clinton has not gone so far as to say that weed should be legalized at the federal level.
Green Party candidate Jill Stein, on the other hand, has gone on record as saying that the “failed war on drugs” needs to end and that it’s time to legalize marijuana and hemp — although she’s far from wanting to “remove all laws against all drug use.”
Meanwhile, Gary Johnson is the presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, the political affiliation known for its emphasis on personal freedom and liberty. If elected president, Johnson would “favor the repeal of all laws creating ‘crimes’ without victims, such as the use of drugs for medical or recreational purposes.” While some believe that all Libertarians want to see all drugs legalized, Johnson has told CNN that his campaign is “not espousing the legalization of any drugs outside of marijuana.”
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