In his Jan. 17 “State of the State” speech, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for a dramatic overhaul in the way his state deals with nonviolent offenders of drug laws. According to a Jan. 18 article on NJ.com, Christie’s proposal was hardly a meek first step:

Christie called for a revolution in New Jersey’s approach to the drug war that would divert non-violent addicts from prison and put them in treatment programs instead. And he did it with characteristic Christie style, in big bold strokes.

“I am not satisfied to have this merely as a pilot project,” the governor said. “I am calling for a transformation of the way we deal with drug abuse and incarceration in every corner of New Jersey.”

As rates of drug abuse remain troublingly high throughout the United States and in many other nations, Gov. Christie isn’t the only high-profile individual who is calling for increased access to treatment for those who are struggling with addiction.

Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur who is also a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, recently called on leaders of the United Kingdom to treat drug abuse as a health issue, not a criminal one. Emphasizing treatment over incarceration, Branson said, has proved its effectiveness.

“”Portugal 10 years ago decided they weren’t going to send anybody to prison for taking drugs,” he told Sky News, “and as a result the amount of drug usage has dropped dramatically.”

Both Branson and Christie agreed that drug abuse should not excuse violent offenders from punishment, but that treatment is a valuable means of limiting the impact on individuals, families, and society at large.

“As long as they have not violently victimized society, everyone deserves a second chance, because no life is disposable,” Christie said.

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