Chris Goldstein is a marijuana activist living in New Jersey.
Marijuana arrests in New Jersey hover at an all-time high and account for half of all drug enforcement policing, according to New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Report data for 2014 released last week.
According to the report, 24,689 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2014 (the UCR data generally lag behind). Having a small amount of pot - under 50 grams - comprised 56 percent of all drug possession arrests.
What's more striking: New Jersey's weed arrests increased even as surrounding areas usher in sharp declines under new policies.
Philadelphia and Maryland decriminalized marijuana in 2014 and began to cut arrests by about 80 percent. At the same time New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a modified approach to reduce handcuffs for dime bags in the Big Apple.
Then, of course, full legalization took effect in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia.
Let's compare Christie's time in office.
During his first term, there were 117, 984 marijuana possession arrests.
Those may have cost the state, mainly individual towns and municipalities, between $150 and $200 million since 2010. That's the combined estimate of nabbing the unlucky cannabis consumers who encounter NJ cops and then bringing them through court.
Again, during this same period much of the country, even bordering areas, have been on the opposite trend.
Back in 2010, Christie was using all of his power to shape the Medicinal Marijuana Program. He claimed compassion but put some of his closest staffers to work on years of regulatory delay. Even now, some of Christie's closest political allies own and operate the few marijuana Alternative Treatment Centers under an ultra-limited regime.
UCR data show that possession arrests rose more than 10% as Christie settled in to office between 2011 and 2012. They seem to be staying there.
Back in 2012 a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession passed in the NJ Assembly. It was killed in the Senate but not before Christie promised a veto. That decrim bill is back, this time with seventeen co-sponsors out of the gate. A few supporting Senators could see the bill move again. But it likely won't have a chance until there is a new governor.
Christie has doubled down at every opportunity when it comes to full legalization or easing up on arrests. On the presidential nomination trail he consistently refined himself as the last spear of the old school Drug War.
Christie has hinted that he favors treatment over incarceration for addicts. But he wins more headlines as the ardent defender of prohibition, ready to snuff out joints in Denver.
Last fall I wrote about the 2013 stats (Inquirer reporter Jan Hefler interviewed me). I attributed the only significant new influence on the upward arrest trends as being the extreme rhetoric used against marijuana by Chris Christie. His spokesperson, at the time, scoffed at the assertion.
Just this weekend, Christie commented on Mississippi offensive tackle's Laramy Tunsil's now infamous gas-mask-bong video tweet. Mr. Tunsil's somewhat questionable taste in smoking accessories came to light on the eve of the NFL draft. He was picked up by the Miami Dolphins but dipped down from a top spot.
Chris Christie called into New York's WFAN to say he would have personally busted Tunsil - just for the tweet.
"When I was a prosecutor, I would've gone in and cuffed this guy," Christie said.
Which pretty much sums up Christie's national marijuana position too. The recent data make it painfully clear marijuana arrests have spiked during his tenure.
It's seems that the new normal is 25,000 weed arrests every. The reality of so many people getting sucked into the criminal justice system for something that would result in a ticket a few miles away or is just plain legal elsewhere is Kafkaesque.
This is a disturbing inequality for personal liberty. Because of such wide differences under the law American cannabis consumers live in (or travel between) legal states or police states.
New Jersey's alarming volume of marijuana possession arrests demonstrates why national reform is vital.