New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said on Sunday that the United States locks up too many nonviolent drug offenders -- but also that he would reinstate federal prosecutions for states that allow residents to legally use marijuana if he were president.
Christie, who has not yet declared that he is running for president, said the country needs to do more to help people who abuse drugs get the treatment they needed.
"What I've been saying in New Jersey is that we can no longer incarcerate our way out of this problem. We need to give treatment," he said on CBS's "Face The Nation." "No other disease do we say to folks, 'no, no, no, you don't deserve treatment.' That somehow it's a moral failing. This is a disease like anything else. I think quite frankly the war on drugs has been a failure."
But when it comes to marijuana, which Christie has called a "gateway drug," the New Jersey governor said that, as president, he would prosecute states that allowed for recreational marijuana use. Cannabis remains illegal under federal law, but the Obama administration has instructed federal prosecutors to refrain from prosecuting state-legal operations. Since Colorado legalized marijuana, charges filed in state courts have plummeted.
If elected, Christie said he would reverse that guidance and direct prosecutors to go after states that allow for legal recreational use. He has called medicinal marijuana in his state a "front," and has vowed not to legalize recreational use of the drug. In March, he said legalizing marijuana would be counterproductive to improving drug treatment efforts.
Christie's comments came as the United States faces a heroin epidemic. A study of 28 states by the Centers for Disease Control found that heroin-related deaths doubled from 2010 to 2012. There are more heroin deaths than homicides in New York City.