DENVER -- Few people still take New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie seriously as a presidential contender, which may explain the governor's comments Monday derisively referring to this critical swing state as a land of "head shops popping up on every corner."
During a radio appearance Monday, Christie responded emphatically to a caller who asked about legalizing marijuana.
"You say it's going to come down the road," he said, interrupting the caller. "You know it may come down the road when I’m gone. It's not going to come while I’m here."
Christie, a Republican thought to be considered the GOP's 2016 front-runner until he got bogged down in a scandal late last year, showed little grasp of an obvious reality: that voters here and in Washington state -- not governors -- are the ones who had the power to legalize recreational marijuana.
"I think when you're running for president and you haven't been to a state you know nothing about, you're likely to say outlandish things," said Colorado Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, who helped write the state's new marijuana laws, which run more than 500 pages.
"When you're counting your electoral votes, I guess he doesn't think he needs Colorado's nine."
Christie's office could not tell FOX31 whether the governor has actually traveled to Colorado since recreational marijuana became legal on Jan. 1 or when the last time he visited the state actually was.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed Amendment 64, which voters approved in 2012 to legalize marijuana but has since directed his administration to implement the new law, responded to FOX31 Denver's request for a comment with a slew of statistics from his office, all showing Colorado ranking above New Jersey on economic development, job creation, innovation, technology, strong communities and so on.
The first statistic Hickenlooper's office offered showed Colorado ranked seventh among "top states for business" by CNBC.
New Jersey is ranked 42nd.
In a Healthways survey of healthy communities, Denver ranked seventh while New Jersey was 23rd, seemingly contradicting Christie's characterization of Colorado's communities being overrun by "head shops" and marijuana tourists.
"For the people who are enamored with the idea with the income, the tax revenue from this, go to Colorado and see if you want to live there," Christie said later in the broadcast, bringing up Colorado again on his own.
"See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado where there's head shops popping up on every corner and people flying into your airport just to come and get high. To me, it's just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey and there's no tax revenue that's worth that."
Mike Elliott, who represents the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, argued that Christie's brash assertions about quality of life and public safety belie the reality -- that legalizing marijuana has brought regulation and rule to what had been a black market enterprise.
"This is superior to an environment where it's the black market, it's people who use violence to sell it, they sell it to kids and -- 'would you like that heroin with that?'" Elliot said.
"There's no accountability to what New Jersey is doing; in these other states, marijuana has been out of control. We're building control into the system here."