Speaking at a conference on substance abuse hosted by the New Jersey Hospital Association on Monday, the Republican governor criticized an effort by state lawmakers to regulate and tax recreational cannabis similarly to alcohol, as states like Colorado and Washington have done. Despite growing support across the nation for legalization, Christie remains firmly opposed to the idea, claiming pot is a gateway drug to substances like heroin. (Research does not support that claim.)
In his remarks, Christie cited a recent report that found marijuana legalization could raise $300 million annually in taxes for New Jersey.
“This is the part that liberals love the most: We can tax it,” he said, according to Politico. “Sweet Jesus, we can tax it! More money for us!”
“I can say this now because I’m not running for anything again: $300 million is nothing,” Christie continued. “We have a $35.5 billion budget; $300 million is a rounding error. I’m sorry. It’s true. Think about it, that’s 1 percent, less than 1 percent, of the entire state budget for a year. And we’re going to poison our kids for 1 percent more money that they can spend on some God awful, stupid program that they can put in the mailer and send out and say, ‘I delivered $300 million more for this.’”
He specifically called out three Democrats: state Sen. Nick Scutari, the author of the recreational pot bill, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney and gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy. Sweeney and Murphy support legalization.
“If people like Nick Scutari and Steve Sweeney and Phil Murphy want to bring this poison into the state under the guise that it doesn’t matter because people can buy it illegally anyway, then why not legalize heroin?” Christie asked, according to NJ.com.
Christie also called legalization efforts “baloney” and “beyond stupidity.”
Christie has opposed such efforts throughout his tenure as governor, which ends in January. He’s blocked bills to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, which became law before he took office. Last year, he described tax revenue from legal marijuana as “blood money.” And while running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015, he vowed to crack down on marijuana-legalization programs in states if elected president.
“Marijuana is against the law in the states, and it should be enforced in all 50 states,” he said at the time.