Nobody Tell Chris Christie, But Colorado Might Have A Better 'Quality Of Life' Than New Jersey

04/24/2014 07:47 am ET | Updated Apr 24, 2014

On a recent radio program, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) slammed Colorado's recreational marijuana laws, which was not a surprise -- Christie has long been a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization in New Jersey. What was surprising was the governor's take that the new Colorado pot laws have ushered in a "quality of life" problem that New Jersey doesn't want.

"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," Christie said during his monthly "Ask the Governor" radio show, according to CNN. "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."

When asked by The Huffington Post for a reaction to Christie's critical statements about Colorado, Eric Brown, communications director for Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), defended the state.

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

Brown cited a number of statistics about the respective quality of life in Colorado and New Jersey that Christie may want to brush up on before he slams the Centennial State again.

Business climate: It turns out Colorado is a great place for business, ranking seventh out of the 50 states in a 2013 study from CNBC that took into consideration metrics like economy, infrastructure and the cost of doing business. New Jersey came in 42nd.

Forbes agrees, listing Colorado as the fifth best state for "business and careers." New Jersey comes in 32nd on the Forbes list.

Economic growth and job creation: FreeEnterprise.com gathered data on just how well the 50 states do at creating jobs and fostering economic growth. They ranked Colorado second in the nation for innovation and entrepreneurship (New Jersey was 14th), 14th in economic performance (New Jersey came in at 33rd), and eighth for business climate (New Jersey was 49th).

The state of the states: Politico recently gathered various data points from the Census Bureau, the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and incorporated them with a slew of other factors, including income, high school graduation rates, life expectancy and more. In their subsequent ranking of the 50 states, Colorado came in seventh overall, while New Jersey came in 12th.

General well-being: The health care company Healthways partnered up with Gallup in 2013 to evaluate well-being across the United States. Looking at residents' habits and behavior, emotional and physical health, work environments and more, they determined that Colorado ranks seventh in overall well-being. New Jersey comes in 23rd.

Technology and science: The Milken Institute, a California think tank, recently took a close look at how states foster growth in technology and science, two areas that will likely prove key to the United States' economic recovery. Colorado was ranked fourth in the nation. New Jersey was ranked 15th.

Both Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but the first legal sales didn't begin in Colorado until Jan. 1, 2014. Washington's first retail dispensaries are expected to open later this year. Twenty-one states, including New Jersey, have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, and about a dozen others are considering legalization in some form in the coming years.

And although Christie may be against marijuana legalization, nationally, Americans appear to be in strong favor of it. A recent Gallup poll showed that for the first time, a clear majority of Americans want to see marijuana legalized. The decades-long war on drugs is also steadily losing public favor. A recent survey from Pew found that 67 percent of Americans say the government should provide treatment for people who use illegal drugs, while only 26 percent believe the government should be prosecuting drug users.

However, New Jersey voters are split about legalizing recreational pot use. According to a recent poll from Rutgers-Eagleton, 49 percent of state voters are in favor of legalization, while 48 percent are opposed. Notably, 65 percent of New Jersey voters did say they'd like to see the elimination of penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

By many accounts, Colorado's legal recreational market has been a success. Revenue-wise, it's been tremendously profitable: In January alone, 59 marijuana dispensaries -- a small fraction of the approximately 550 total dispensaries in the state that could qualify to sell legal cannabis -- generated $14 million in sales. Business went up slightly in February, bringing a two-month total of about $7.6 million in medical and recreational taxes and fees into the state's coffers.

All of this, contra Christie, hasn't led to streets filled with stoned zombies. Regulations are strict: Pot is still illegal to use in public, there are no Amsterdam-style cafés and adults 21 and over can only legally use on their private property. In just the first two months of legal recreational marijuana sales, overall crime in Denver, where a majority of the state's marijuana dispensaries are located, has fallen.

"Colorado continues to be a top American state," Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, told HuffPost. "And Colorado’s marijuana program, which follows in the footsteps of many other successful state rights programs, is part of what makes Colorado an excellent place to live and work.”

"There is plenty of evidence indicating that Colorado's marijuana program is enhancing safety, the economy and civil liberties in Colorado," he added.

Elliott even offered to give Christie a tour of one of the state's licensed and legal marijuana facilities.

"We would also be happy to show him how 500 pages of state marijuana law is safety and responsibly implemented," Elliott said. "And we would be happy to show him the various aspects of our program, such as state and local licensing, background checks [and] financial disclosures; security requirements such as mandatory video surveillance, alarm systems and limited access areas; consumer safety requirements such as child-resistant packaging, detailed labeling with warnings and testing for potency and harmful contaminants like mold and mildew; and seed-to-sale tracking with mandatory RFID tags."

Christie's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.

Also on HuffPost:

  • 1 Former President Bill Clinton
    AP
  • Bill "Didn't Inhale" Clinton has supported decriminalizing marijuana for more than a decade and more recently has spoken out against the war on drugs.

    “I think that most small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in some places, and should be," he said back in 2000 in an interview with Rolling Stone. "We really need a re-examination of our entire policy on imprisonment.”

    He's since spoken about the issue of marijuana and drug prohibition a number of times. Last year, he appeared in the documentary, "Breaking the Taboo," where he argued that the war on drugs has been a failure.
  • 2 Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
    AP
  • Paul exhibited his libertarian tendencies earlier this year when he explained that he'd favor reforming marijuana laws to either decriminalize or reduce penalties for possession.

    “I don't want to promote that but I also don't want to put people in jail who make a mistake," Paul said. "There are a lot of young people who do this and then later on in their twenties they grow up and get married and they quit doing things like this. I don't want to put them in jail and ruin their lives."

  • 3 Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)
  • As a congressman, Paul took his opposition to marijuana and drug prohibition a step farther than his son has so far. He supported a number of bills that would have removed the plant from its current status as a Schedule I substance under federal law, where it is considered alongside heroin and PCP. Because his history on the topic is so expansive, just take a look at the video to the left for a selection of his comments.
  • 4 Evangelist Pat Robertson
    AP
  • While the 83-year-old Robertson may say a lot of things that make him sound like a kooky old man, he's also made a few remarks to endear himself to marijuana advocates.

    "I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol," Robertson said in an interview with The New York Times in 2012. "I've never used marijuana and I don't intend to, but it's just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn't succeeded."

    Robertson has made similar remarks on his "700 Club" show before, but the Times, like many others, perhaps felt they must have misheard him.
  • 5 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
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  • In a state of the city address earlier this year, Bloomberg made it clear that he supported a promise by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to push marijuana decriminalization. "I support Governor Cuomo's proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation, rather than a misdemeanor, and we'll work to help him pass it." A similar effort specific to NYC has made some progress, but faces an unclear path forward with New York lawmakers.
  • 6 Actor Bryan Cranston
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  • Some may think of Cranston as more of a meth guy thanks to Walter White, his character on AMC's hit show "Breaking Bad," but in real life he's spoken out against current pot laws, suggesting that recreational marijuana use isn't a big deal -- and shouldn't be treated like it.

    “[T]o me, marijuana is no different than wine," he said in an interview with High Times. "It's a drug of choice. It's meant to alter your current state -- and that's not a bad thing. It's ridiculous that marijuana is still illegal. We're still fighting for it ... It comes down to individual decision-making. There are millions of people who smoke pot on a social basis and don't become criminals. So stop with that argument -- it doesn't work.”

    [H/T Marijuana Majority]
  • 7 Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R)
    AP
  • Unlike many politicians, Johnson, a Libertarian presidential candidate in 2012, has unabashedly admitted using marijuana. But beyond his personal history with pot, he's been an outspoken advocate for legalizing and taxing it.

    From his campaign platform:

    "By managing marijuana like alcohol and tobacco - regulating, taxing and enforcing its lawful use - America will be better off. The billions saved on marijuana interdiction, along with the billions captured as legal revenue, can be redirected against the individuals committing real crimes against society."
  • 8 Author Stephen King
    Getty Images
  • King hasn't been shy about advocating for a legal marijuana industry that could give easy access to recreational users and revenue to the states.

    “Marijuana should not only be legal, I think it should be a cottage industry," he said in an interview with High Times. "My wife says, and I agree with her, that what would be really great for Maine would be to legalize dope completely and set up dope stores the way that there are state-run liquor stores.”

    [H/T Marijuana Majority]
  • 9 Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)
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  • Rohrabacher was a co-sponsor of the 2013 "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act," which seeks to protect marijuana users or businesses acting legally according to state marijuana laws from being prosecuted under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

    While marijuana has been made legal for various uses in a number of states, the Obama administration continues to enforce federal laws across the nation. This has led to numerous raids of marijuana-based businesses, as well as prosecutions of growers and other people involved in pot.

  • 10 Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)
    AP
  • Young was also a co-sponsor of the 2013 "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act."
  • 11 Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.)
    Getty Images
  • Amash was also a co-sponsor of the "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act."
  • 12 Glenn Beck
    AP
  • Back in 2009, when Beck had a Fox News show, he suggested that marijuana legalization could be a worthwhile solution to raging drug violence on the nation's border with Mexico.

    "I think it's about time we legalize marijuana," he said. "We have to make a choice in this country. We either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars or we legalize it, but this little game we're playing in the middle is not helping us, it is not helping Mexico and it is causing massive violence on our southern border."
  • 13 Billionaire Richard Branson
    AP
  • From an op-ed by Branson arguing for an end to the war on drugs:

    "Decriminalization does not result in increased drug use. Portugal's 10 year experiment shows clearly that enough is enough. It is time to end the war on drugs worldwide. We must stop criminalising drug users. Health and treatment should be offered to drug users - not prison. Bad drugs policies affect literally hundreds of thousands of individuals and communities across the world. We need to provide medical help to those that have problematic use - not criminal retribution."
  • 14 GOP Mega-Donor David Koch
    AP
  • Koch may have funneled countless dollars to conservative candidates who oppose reforming marijuana laws, but back in 1980, when he was the vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, he suggested that it was "ridiculous" to consider people who smoked pot "criminals."
  • 15 Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
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  • In 2010, Perry told Jon Stewart that he believed in a federalist approach to marijuana laws -- that is, to allow states to determine their own approach and to tell the federal government to butt out. He's since suggested he'd be willing to support decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.
  • 16 Comedy Central's Jon Stewart
    Getty Images
  • Stewart has made a habit of taking down politicians who exhibit an uncompromising stance on marijuana prohibition. In 2012, Stewart took New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to task for vetoing a marijuana decriminalization bill.

    “Alright, as much as I disagree, I don’t think marijuana should be illegal, but it is illegal on the federal level," Stewart began. "Christie is a former prosecutor, a man of conviction, of principle, doesn’t believe that the state should supersede federal law."

    The praise in the second sentence is a good sign that Stewart is about to shred Christie. Watch the rest of his takedown above.
  • 17 Actor Jack Nicholson
    AP
  • In an interview with the UK's Daily Mail in 2011, Nicholson said that he personally still used marijuana, before making the case for ending the prohibition on pot as well as other drugs.

    "I don't tend to say this publicly, but we can see it's a curative thing. The narcotics industry is also enormous. It funds terrorism and - this is a huge problem in America - fuels the foreign gangs," he said. "More than 85 percent of men incarcerated in America are on drug-related offences. It costs $40,000 a year for every prisoner. If they were really serious about the economy there would be a sensible discussion about legalization."
  • 18 Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R)
    AP
  • In a 2013 American Conservative op-ed chock full of moderate Republican views, Huntsman snuck in a call to "applaud states that lead on reforming drug policy."

    While Obama and his administration have responded to state marijuana reforms by saying they must enforce federal laws against marijuana, the president has the power to reschedule the drug, which would allow federal authorities to shift resources away from a prohibitive approach.
  • 19 Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R)
    AP
  • Palin spoke out on marijuana in 2010, saying she didn't support legalizing it but also calling it a "minimal problem" for the nation.

    "However, I think we need to prioritize our law enforcement efforts," Palin said. "If somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody any harm, then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems we have in society." While Obama has spoken repeatedly about not being interested in prosecuting small-time marijuana users, he hasn't done anything to prevent them from being busted by law enforcement in states where the drug is still illegal.
  • 20 Comedian Jimmy Kimmel
    Getty Images
  • Kimmel notably took a shot at Obama while serving as host of the 2012 White House Correspondents Dinner, questioning a continued marijuana crackdown under the president's administration. He then went on to say that the issue of its continued illegality was a serious political concern for many Americans.

    (Check out the video above.)
  • 21 Former President Jimmy Carter
    Getty Images
  • Carter hasn't minced words in expressing his opposition to harsh marijuana and drug prohibition policies.

    In 2012, the former president said he was fine with state legalization efforts, though he himself doesn't necessary support legalizing the drug.

    “As president 35 years ago I called for decriminalizing -- but not legalizing -- the possession of marijuana,” Carter said. “Since then, U.S. drug policies have been very horrible to our own country because of an explosion in prison populations.”
  • 22 Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli
    AP
  • A staunch conservative who failed in a run for the U.S. Senate last year, Cuccinelli suggested in 2013 that he was "evolving" on marijuana legalization, and that he supported the rights of states to determine their own pot laws.

    "I don't have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing I think that's the role of states," Cuccinelli said, according to Ryan Nobles of WWBT.
  • 23 Columnist Dan Savage
    AP
  • Savage slammed Obama for perpetuating the war on drugs while on HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher" in 2009.

    “The proof will be in the policy. The war on drugs has gotten a really bad rap, when you ask people if they support the war on drugs they say no ... [Obama's] budget once again has the same old drug warrior policy ... I reject the assumption that everybody who is using drugs needs treatment or is an addict and needs to get arrested ... Not all drug use is abuse.”

    He's kept up the fight for drug policy reform since.

    [H/T Marijuana Majority]
  • 24 MSNBC's Al Sharpton
    Getty Images
  • Sharpton has repeatedly spoken out in favor of reforming drug laws. In 2011, he suggested that the nation had wasted trillions of dollars in an ill-fated effort that had weighed particularly heavily on the African American community.

    “We've been fighting the war on drugs since the '60s. And guess what? Trillions of dollars later, we are losing," Sharpton said during a segment on MSNBC. "When you look at the disparities in sentencing drug offenders, hasn't this kind of injustice undermined the legitimacy of our criminal justice system?”

    [H/T Marijuana Majority]
  • 25 Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.)
    AP
  • Tancredo came out aggressively in favor of reforming marijuana laws in 2010, telling the Colorado Independent that the correct path forward was "Legalize it. Regulate it. Tax it."

    Tancredo continued, “The arguments against marijuana today are the same as the arguments against liquor years ago.”

    Years later, the former congressman agreed to smoke pot on camera with a documentary filmmaker, a deal that he later backed out of.

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