New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie recently admitted that the war on drugs has been a “failure” in a speech at The Brooking Institution. From Huffington Post:

“The war on drugs, while well-intentioned, has been a failure,” Christie said Monday during a speech at The Brookings Institution. “We’re warehousing addicted people everyday in state prisons in New Jersey, giving them no treatment.”

Christie stressed the merits of legislation recently passed by New Jersey state lawmakers that institutes a year of mandatory treatment for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders instead of jail time. The mandatory treatment program, slated to be put in place in at least three counties during its first year, will eventually expand statewide over the next five years.

This is an important statement coming from one of the most prominent Republicans governors.  Open declarations that the drug war is a failure are something you more expect from Alan St. Peirre the Executive Director of NORML, than from a top Republican leader considered to be a potential Vice Presidential pick.

Simply admitting the drug war is a failure is not enough. Christie’s solution for addressing this failure, mandatory drug treatment for first time offenders is only barely an improvement over the status quo.  The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people who use marijuana aren’t abusing it or becoming addicted to it. They don’t need to be forced into unnecessary and costly treatment programs.

That said, though, the very first step towards changing a bad policy is getting most people to agree the currently approach has failed. Only after getting agreeing on that basic point can you even start to have a productive debate about what is the best way to reform the situation.

If we are entering an era where the political debate is no longer whether or not we should maintain the war on drugs; but instead, a debate on how best to replace the war on drugs that all sides agree has failed, that is a positive step forward.