TRENTON — During the second and final debate in the New Jersey governor's race, Republican nominee Kim Guadagno on Wednesday defended her opposition to legalizing Marijuana by citing a report that says traffic deaths rose 48 percent in Colorado since voters approved the drug's recreational use.
Democratic nominee Phil Murphy tried to bolstered his argument for legalization Cannabis by pointing to numerous studies that say opioid overdoses are declining in states where recreational use is legal. Marijuana has been shown to be a pain reliever.
Minutes after the debate ended, Gov. Chris Christie — a vehement opponent to legalizing pot — tweeted a link to a different study that said pot smokers are twice as likely to abuse opiates. "philmurphynj is wrong," Christie wrote.
In a debate that will be remembered for its name-calling and testiness, the marijuana legalization discussion stands out for the candidates' reliance on facts over hyperbole.
Guadagno said data show Legal Marijuana will be threat to driver safety, citing a study she had read saying fatalities rose by 48 percent after dispensaries opened in 2012.
If she wins the race, she said she would decriminalize marijuana possession.
"From 2009 to 2012, the 'medical marijuana commercialization years,' the average yearly marijuana-related Traffic Deaths Increased by 48 percent compared with the 'early medical marijuana era' between 2006 and 2008, according to FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan website run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
Legalize marijuana in Jersey? Your choice for governor will determine that
"In the first two years after the recreational use of marijuana became legal (2013 to 2014), the average yearly marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by another 41 percent," Factcheck.org wrote.
In making his case, Murphy could have been referring to a few studies, including one released last week, that says the number of opioid deaths is declining in states where legal marijuana is available. The reduction is slight — one fewer death per month — according to article published in American Journal of Public Health.
"This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado," according to the article.
In 2014, a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found a 25 percent decrease in prescription drug overdoses in states with medical marijuana laws that allowed patients with chronic pain to participate in the program.
Then there's governor's argument.
Christie cited a month-old report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Investigators examined tens of thousands of survey responses from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions which found people who had used marijuana in the past year had "2.6 times greater odds of initiating prescription opioid misuse, defined as using a drug without a prescription, in higher doses, for longer periods, or for other reasons than prescribed."
Susan K. Livio may be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.
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