Christie, Whitney Houston and substance abuse


Governor Christie has been both criticized and praised for ordering flags to be flown at half staff on Saturday February 18, the day of Whitney Houston’s funeral.  The governor stated that Ms. Houston was not a “role model” because she had substance abuse problems, but a cultural icon from New Jersey.  The governor said, “This is a disease that some people struggle with and conquer on a day-to-day basis, and some people succumb to it. And I don’t believe that that should diminish the other contributions they’ve made in their life.”

Now that the governor has asserted that drug use is a “disease,” he has taken a step to end one misguided approach in the government’s war on drugs; he is “proposing to divert nonviolent drug offenders out of the criminal-justice system into mandatory addiction treatment.” 

Although Governor Christie has ruffled some feathers with his decision to have flags lowered in New Jersey to half staff in honor of Whitney Houston, he has highlighted an important principle that needs to be addressed in order to stop the senseless violence in communities where she grew up.  Abusing one’s body should not be a criminal offense and prohibition—of any kind–does more harm than good because violence increases as gangs battle for turf in inner cities and in other areas of the nation. 

Governor Christie may have unintentionally initiated a national dialogue about how drug abusers should be treated.  The governor should take the lead and call for ending the federal war on drugs and allowing states and local communities to deal with the human tragedy of substance abuse.  If Governor Christie would become the voice of reason on this issue, then he will do a great service for the American people, especially the millions of Americans who suffer from drug abuse. 

Murray Sabrin is professor of finance at Ramapo College and blogs at Christie, Whitney Houston and substance abuse