March 8th, 2012
01:22 PM ET

Pat Robertson speaks out for marijuana legalization

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Belief Blog

(CNN) - Televangelist Pat Robertson is raising eyebrows, and cheers from activists who are usually his opponents on political issues, by calling for the legalization of marijuana.

“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Robertson told The New York Times on Wednesday. “I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”

The comments came after Robertson affirmed his support for marijuana decriminalization - which he had voiced in 2010 - on his TV show, “The 700 Club,” last week.

“I became sort of a hero of the hippie culture, I guess, when I said I think we ought to decriminalize the possession of marijuana,” Robertson, 81, said on his Christian Broadcasting Network show.

“I just think it's shocking how many of these young people wind up in prison and they get turned into hard-core criminals because they had a possession of a very small amount of controlled substance,” he said on his show. “The whole thing is crazy.”

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Robertson told the Times that he “absolutely” supports pro-marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington, though he said he would not actively campaign for them.

Many marijuana legalization advocates, who tend to be liberal or libertarian and who often see Robertson as a boogeyman for his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion rights, have welcomed Robertson’s support while also noting their surprise.

“Pat Robertson's clearly stated and well-reasoned comments throw a curve ball into the growing debate over legalizing marijuana,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the pro-marijuana legalization Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement Thursday.

“The millions of people who listen to and respect him are mostly conservatives, Republicans and older Americans (who) … have been the least likely to support legalizing marijuana,” Nadelmann said.

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A spokesman for Robertson said Thursday that the televangelist was inundated with interview requests and that he was unavailable for immediate comment.

Robertson said on his show last week that he opposed incarceration for marijuana offenses on humanitarian grounds and because of the costs involved.

“We've just got to change the laws,” he said. “We cannot allow this to continue. It is sapping our vitality. Think of this great land of freedom. We have the highest rate of incarceration of any nation on the face of the Earth. That's a shocking statistic.”

In 2010, Robertson spoke on “The 700 Club” about decriminalizing marijuana but didn’t go so far as to advocate legalizing it.

“We’re locking up people that have taken a couple puffs of marijuana, and next thing you know they’ve got 10 years with mandatory sentences,” Robertson said at the time. “…We’ve got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes and that’s one of ’em.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Politics

soundoff (1,395 Responses)
  1. Chaos

    He must have been stoned.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Retired Army

      Pat wants to get his groove on 😉 .......

      March 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  2. Pinch Me

    He's right!

    Better late than never.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  3. Dan

    Pat Robertson actually saying something I agree with? I now expect a unicorn, a space alien and the lockness monster to appear outside my cubicle. Anything is possible now.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • LNMonsta

      Can you spare tree fiddy?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • patrick


      March 8, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  4. Jason

    Wow, what a surprise! Don't know why conservatives have a such a problem with decriminalization. It is a waste of taxpayer money and reinforces big government. Those resources could be better spent on border security or debt reduction or education, etc.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • denim

      I just wonder what some of these old men and women were doing back in the 1960s.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  5. Fat Chance

    Seriously doubt that decriminalization will come to fruition anytime soon.

    Too many Law Enforcement people will be out of a gig.

    Same deal with Prison reforms. Too many state employees will be out of a gig.

    God forbid we lay anyone off in the public sector...we all know how much NEW money the bring to our econ....wait....oh no nevermind.......

    March 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  6. anon

    Every once in a while the man actually makes sense.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • edge

      I hope this is better than a stopped clock. I hope this guy can lead a revolution of rational faithful who can connect their good intentions to positive results.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  7. Mike

    There should not be any laws for banning drugs. There should, however, be stiff penalties for causing harm or damage while under the influence. Our country is big on telling us what we should and shouldn't do, but we don't hold people accountable very well. What a person does with their body is their choice, as long as it doesn't infringe on another persons rights.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Fat Chance

      AGREED...Does anyone realize that in Germany that people can walk the streets with open beer bottles? I mean I'm not one for comparing everything to Europe but that is the one thing they have right....they let people do their thing (in this respect) until someone breaks a bottle on a cop or whatnot

      March 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  8. Randy

    I totally agree that we should legalize marijuana, tax it and control it like alcohol. We are spending entirely too much money paying government employees to wage a war on a plant! Amen!

    March 8, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  9. bigfoot

    I NEVER thought i would see the ay when I agreed with ANYTHING this man said but THAT day has come. Hallelujah.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  10. Fred Grimes

    U sir are nucking futs for thinking that decriminalization of an ilegal substance is worth exploring.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • edge

      Decriminalize it and it isn't illegal any more...

      March 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • PugPower

      Well said! The criminalization of marijuana has been every bit as sucessful as the prohibition of alcohol was. Why mess with success?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Malcolm Kyle

      Fred, it's the end of the road my friend – kindly find yourself another lost cause, but next time waste your own damn money! 
      It always ends the same; Prohibitionists like yourself eventually get to experience utter loneliness, also known as “the sadomoralist condition” – a form of existential despair, as you all begin to finally realize the utter futility and destructiveness of your silly beliefs and pointless life’s work. This is compounded by the deep realization that it’s simply no longer possible to prove any of the nonsense you’ve been zealously propagating for many decades. It’s this type of loneliness that often turns your attention to a higher power, and one that usually comes in liquid form.
      You are suffering from a serious terminal affliction, and not one that a psychologist, philosopher or priest can help with.
      You have become trapped in a very dark place where you have literally nobody left to relate to. In such situations it is our civic duty, and moral obligation, to point you all to the nearest high bridge.

      There they are! All listing as dead cats,
      Far above the huddled masses by the water tower,
      The office buildings, and the strip mall
      In mourning, the banks overgrown with weed.
      And all the prohibitionists of that once lulled and dumbfound town
      Are dangling.
      – Tylan Dhomas

      March 8, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Ichiban

      What about alcohol abuse?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Steve

      Because, nothing? Wow. Thanks for the insight.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Joey

      Its probably best if you THINK before you type.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  11. Billy

    I love how they continue to say he supports LEGALIZATION...even in the headline..and that is NOT what he said or supports.

    He supports DECRIMINALIZATION....just like tobacco and alcohol are. There is a massive difference between the two because one is REGULATED and the other is NOT.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Nah

      billy: "He supports DECRIMINALIZATION....just like tobacco and alcohol are. There is a massive difference between the two because one is REGULATED and the other is NOT."

      Uh..what? If a law "decriminalizes" a drug it therefore makes that drug legal to use. Whether something is regulated in part or in whole has no bearing on that fact.

      It's not surprising that your argument lacks analytic depth. Been smoking too much, eh?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Guest

      Decriminalization and legalization are two different things. Some countries have made it decriminalized, some have made it legalized. Something that is decriminalized still may be involve fines or perimts.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  12. BongWater

    Wow – I actually agree with Pat Robertson on this!! That's scary!!! Makes sense, have you ever heard of someone getting high after work and going home and beating his wife or kids... nope How about someone saying "Oh man, watch out – he's a mean stoner... Doesn't happen, if anything you are more likely to go home and watch cartoons and eat cereal with your kids

    March 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Addiction of any kind is all about selfishness. The selfish person loves it. The people surrounding them have to pick up the pieces for them not being part of life.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  13. humtake

    I love how they have to try to find a way to play down what someone says. They say he has come out to decriminalize it...oh, but he won't actively campaign. Of course he won't, he just said he's never done it. Why would he campaign for something he doesn't use? He is for the decriminalization of it which is far and above what anyone expected from him, just leave it at that.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  14. Smajon

    I just want the same legal rights that every alcoholic drunk in this country has. I want to be able to buy it legally from a store, and enjoy my vice without the threat of being thrown in jail.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  15. Brandon

    I'm agreeing with Pat Robertson. What sorcery is this?

    March 8, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  16. Dr.Fritz

    Smoke a joint; read the Bible; have some ice cream.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Dan

      I agree with the first and third of those suggestions.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  17. KC

    Because what we need is not only drunk drivers and texting drivers but even more stoned drivers than we have now!

    March 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Steve

      Do you believe outlawing alcohol would reduce drunk driving incidents?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Nah

      steve: "Do you believe outlawing alcohol would reduce drunk driving incidents?"

      Yes ma'am. Not simply because it's "outlawed" but because there are penalties for driving drunk.

      The person who's hellbent on driving drunk or using drugs won't be affected by any amount of legislation. However, the average law abiding person who will not risk the punishment will be deterred from engaging in an activity that is made criminal.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • notahypocrite

      obviously you are uneducated about the effects of weed...people are going to smoke or drink regardless of the law. Maybe you need to chill out w/a blunt?!

      March 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Dan

      Let's outlaw booze and texting and legalize pot. Would that balance things out?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Rich

      Yes, Pot smokers dive at least 10MPH lower than the posted speed limit. Not too many reports of a stoned person wrecking a car, or killing innocent bystanders.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • patrick

      the only common denominator appears to be driving... so criminalize that!! people drive stoned now. of course driving under the influence of marijuana should be illegal. but that is a poor argument for criminalization of marijuana. at that point, alcohol, cell phones, sleep medication, stereo systems... should all be illegal & charged criminally for their potential risks of causing accidents. when does it stop? whatever happened to personal responsibility? if you commit a "REAL" crime (resulting in harm or the potential of harm to another individual) while on a mind altering substance, you should be tried for the CRIME, and required to receive counseling/education on the responsible use of the drug. but no, that would require self control & RESPONSIBILITY!?!?!?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Steve


      Your argument assumes that every drunk driver on the road is one who is "hellbent" on driving drunk—hellbent on breaking the law. But that's simply not true. Normal, law-abiding citizens get arrested for drunk driving every day. It's not an unusual first offense. But it does beg the question:

      Why would an otherwise law-abiding citizen suddenly decide to break the law and drive their vehicle while under the influence?

      Because they were drunk, that's why. Most "good" people with a DUI under their belt would probably say, "I would have never driven drunk had I been sober enough to know better."

      March 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Joey

      Prohibition has been a disaster. If you disagree your too stupid to be taken seriously.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  18. Sam Yaza

    wow i actually agree with Pat,....do you hear that,....is that frog,....holy sh.it its raining frogs

    and the wolf is shaking hand with a Shepard, a Lion is getting a Blow-job from a lamb and do I see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avyLf3YW2Jk

    March 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  19. Are You Kidding?

    wow...the last person I would have thought to say make it legal said it. The facts speak for themselves in the so called war on drugs. It has been going on for more than 30 years and we are loosing it. Make all illegal drugs legal and tax the living day lights out of them. Only problem would be local law enforcement wouldn't get the cut of the cash they confiscate so states would block the idea.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  20. Joy in Sacramento

    Well hell has surely frozen over, because the man has finally said something I agree with. The war on drugs is pointless. We waste huge amounts of money and manpower on trying to stem the tide. The drug lords in South America grow richer and richer because of the high prices they can charge for their illegal drugs. All the money and time we've spent has not done a darn thing to reduce the problem. Better to legalize it, regulate it, tax it. Crime rates will drop and we can spend the money on other, more pressing issues. Drug dealers will be out of business. Drug lords in South American will be out of business, because we will (presumably) produce our own drugs - legally. Murder rates will also go down, as well as prison population. Legalize it now. Tax it. Regulate it. And with some of the savings, set up free clinics for those who want to break their addiction.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Nah

      joy: "The drug lords in South America grow richer and richer because of the high prices they can charge for their illegal drugs. All the money and time we've spent has not done a darn thing to reduce the problem."

      Nah. If drugs were legalized they'd still be raking in money. After all, if they have a free and open market to work in, can avoid paying hundreds of middle men and don't lose tons of product per year (to the DEA and robberies), they could charge less and retain the same income.

      "Better to legalize it, regulate it, tax it. Crime rates will drop and we can spend the money on other, more pressing issues."

      Nah. Legalizing drugs in the U.S. will do nothing to stop the cartels from trying to dominate each other in South America. Or do you honestly believe that drug lords will say "Oh, no! Our drugs are legal! Now we have to stop selling them!"?

      In fact, legalization should incentivize them trying to dominate each other further. Why? Because each cartel will have a chance at becoming the Walmart of the drug trade.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Nah

      joy: "Drug dealers will be out of business. Drug lords in South American will be out of business, because we will (presumably) produce our own drugs – legally."

      Right. Just like the end of prohibition saw the decline of the booze industry. That's why there are no beer or wine manufacturers left.

      "because we will (presumably) produce our own drugs – legally"

      Lol. Right. Just like the U.S. makes and sells its own manufactured goods. It doesn't get them from China at all. You know, China, where it's cheaper and easier to buy products from an existing manufacturer in a country with cheap production rates than to build a more expensive industry of your own.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Harvey Wallbanger

      The drug lords would go legit as farmers and exporters, with no more violence. They would have to compete on a world market, driving prices down. Prison populations radically shrink – BIG savings of tax dollars in an era where we need that. Taxes on drugs create major income for the government. Number of users remains the same. All that was the outcome of ending Prohibition, by the way.

      Boy, who would want the violence to go away, the gangs to wither, and the financial burden to reverse?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.