Chris Christie's gubernatorial inauguration speech: It's time to end the failed war on drugs

I … did not see this coming, although as it turns out, it’s nothing new for him. As far back as 2011, he said, “I don’t believe the only weapon we use against the drug problem is incarceration. 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.” Two years ago, he went further and called the war on drugs a well-intentioned failure. Despite his reputation as an establishment attack dog, on this subject he’s downright Paul-esque.

His latest rhetoric’s getting extra attention, though, partly because the setting suggests he might be prepared to act on it in the next year, partly because legalized weed is newly in vogue, and partly of course because the left’s new public enemy number one is now championing a showy liberal policy while he’s in their crosshairs.

“We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse. We will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands this simple truth: every life has value and no life is disposable,” Christie said during his inaugural speech this morning.

The governor expressed desire to help those struggling with drug addiction in a bipartisan manner. “And, while government has a role in ensuring the opportunity to accomplish these dreams, we have now learned that we have an even bigger role to play as individual citizens. We have to be willing to play outside the red and blue boxes the media and pundits put us in; we have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us; we have to be willing to personally reach out a helping hand to a neighbor suffering from drug addiction, depression or the dignity stripping loss of a job,” said Christie.

Governor Christie’s inaugural remarks are being applauded by drug policy reform advocates.

He must be sincere about this because there’s no real political benefit to him in saying it. Libertarians hate him for (among other things) hammering Rand Paul on NSA surveillance so he’s not peeling away any votes from the right with this; if anything, it might give pause to conservatives and older voters who are looking for a law-and-order guy and now might wonder what other surprises he has in store for them. I thought one of the issues on which we’d see a Christie-versus-Paul establishment-versus-libertarian bloodbath in the 2016 primaries was the drug war, but nope — looks like we’re headed for heated consensus among the candidates on some form of decriminalization for minor drug (i.e. marijuana) users at least. And if this is where the GOP is, Democrats will be scrambling to catch up. Expect a statement from Hillary denouncing the “excesses” of heavy-handed drug policing any day now.

Three clips from today’s speech for you, none specifically having to do with drugs but all centered around the same theme — we’re one people, not Democrats and Republicans, and by putting aside our differences we can achieve things that Washington can’t. This is the de facto beginning to Christie running as a de facto independent in 2016, especially if he makes it through the GOP primary and onto the general election. Exit question: Will we hear something similar at CPAC or will that be a bit more conservative-ish?