Christie persists in panning pot

DENVER – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie got a firsthand look at Colorado’s “quality of life” Wednesday when he stopped in Denver to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez.

The chairman of the Republican Governors Association said he stands by his eyebrow-raising remarks in April about the Centennial State’s quality of life after marijuana legalization.

“I think that that diminishes the quality of life in a state that legalizes an illegal drug – a drug that’s still determined to be illegal by the federal government and in most other states,” Christie said in front of a gaggle of reporters at Sam’s No. 3 diner in downtown Denver.

The potential Republican presidential candidate raised ire among Coloradans in April when he suggested that New Jersey should not legalize marijuana because of a diminished quality of life in Colorado.

On a New Jersey radio show he said, “For the people who are enamored with the idea ... the tax revenue from this, go to Colorado and see if you want to live there.

“See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado where there’s head shops popping up on every corner and people flying into your airport just to come and get high. To me, it’s just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey, and there’s no tax revenue that’s worth that,” he said.

Christie laughed that he had been in Colorado for only about two hours when he made the stop in Denver. He said he hadn’t had time yet to explore Colorado’s quality of life. But he still maintained his position.

“I disagree with you,” Christie said to more than 55 percent of the Colorado electorate that legalized retail marijuana in 2012. “The fact is that we’ve got to stop in public life worrying about making everybody happy and faking it by we’re going to agree all the time. ... What I’d say to those folks is if you’re looking for a candidate that you’re going to agree with 100 percent of the time, go home and look in the mirror. You’re the only person you’re going to agree with 100 percent of the time.

“I believe what I believe, and I think what people have gotten to learn about me over the last number of years is that I’m going to say what I think,” continued an unapologetic Christie. “Some people love it, and some people won’t.”

Christie’s remarks in April prompted a response from the office of Gov. John Hickenlooper. The governor’s spokesman at the time, Eric Brown, pointed to several statistics that would indicate that Colorado actually has a very high quality of life.

“A lot of people think Colorado is a great place to live, work and play,” Brown said then. “Plus, we have a pretty awesome quality of life. But don’t take just our word for it.”

Colorado ranks seventh for top business states, compared with New Jersey ranking 42nd; Colorado ranks fifth for business and careers, compared with Jersey coming in at 32nd; Colorado ranks second for innovation and entrepreneurship, compared with The Garden State’s ranking at 14; and the Centennial State came in eighth for business climate, compared with 49 for Jersey, according to a few of the statistics presented by the governor’s office.

Colorado media had a bit of fun with it also. Alternative weekly Westword, for example, posted unflattering photos of Christie, in which one said, “No comment. We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it,” referring to the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal in which Christie’s administration was accused of collaborating to create traffic jams by closing toll lanes.

Social media also was filled with photos of majestic Colorado mountains juxtaposed with smog-emitting factories in New Jersey.

After learning that Christie was unwilling to back down, marijuana legalization advocates pounced on him.

“It appears Gov. Christie just does not like the people he associates with marijuana use,” said Mason Tvert, one of the proponents of the 2012 legalization question. “It’s difficult to understand why he thinks it is so problematic for adults to use a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol. ... Apparently his perception of the quality of life is more important than actual human lives. Coloradans have evolved more quickly on this issue than Gov. Christie.”

pmarcus@durangoherald.com

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