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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. wisdom4u2

    RIGHT ON, PAT!!! It just doesn't make sense to make something like 'weed' illegal; Because the only reason it is ...is so the dealers and authorities can profit from the sell of it. America is really dummying down anyway, and we don‘t have to worrying about anyone losing their jobs because of using weed, seeing that there isn‘t very many jobs required for any human dexterity…. So, what‘s the fear? It can’t be ‘oh, what about driving’?, texting has killed more people than alcohol… you just haven’t heard about it, thanks to the ‘payouts’ from the ’cell phone’ companies. Just saying…

    March 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Yahway

      There is hope for you yet Pat!

      March 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  2. Jack W

    More resources in the "drug wars" are aimed at marijuana than any other illegal drug. Legalizing marijuana will: 1. decrease the total resources needed to fight drug abuse. 2. provide a new tax base to fund a myriad of programs and the government in general. 3. take a major source of income away from the drug cartels, as marijuana is the bread and butter that funds the rest of their activities, thereby weakening their power and abilities. 4. decrease prison populations, again freeing up resources for other police activty. Where does this not make sense? What we are doing now is ineffective, inconsistant and irrational.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Bob

      Legalizing pot will do none of these. Sorry that pot heads are too stupid to understand.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • A Subgenius

      Bob, please at least attack the argument, not the arguer. (That is, IF you can.)

      March 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  3. Punch Line

    April Fool's day is still weeks away!

    March 8, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  4. Joe

    God smoked pot while he was creating the animals, how else do you explain giraffes?

    March 8, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      don't forget the Platypus.... however, God has a 'natural' High.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Jim

      Or the platypus?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Real

      Nice!

      March 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      @ Jim ~~~~ Yeah, platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)... go look them up....they're so cute and strange looking.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  5. Brian

    Its simple economics, legalize drugs-but make sure to severely undercut the drug cartels price. Easy.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  6. michael

    What amazingly lucid, reasonably commentary from a man I never credit with being lucid or reasonable.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • JJC

      I know exactly what you mean.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • michael

      Right? It's a refreshing notion – even someone with whom I violently disagree on nearly every cultural question mankind faces... we've got common ground on an issue. A hot, culture-war inflected issue, at that.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  7. Bhicks

    "Why is marijuana against the law? It grows naturally on our planet, serves a thousand different functions, all of them positive. To make marijuana against the law is like saying that God made a mistake. Like on the seventh day God looked down, "There it is. My Creation, perfect and holy in all ways. Now I can rest. [Gives shocked expression] Oh my Me! I left pot everywhere. I should never have smoked that joint on the third day. Hehe, that was the day I created the possum. Still gives me a chuckle. But if I leave pot everywhere, that's gonna give people the impression they're supposed to … use it. Now I have to create Republicans." " … and God wept", I believe is the next part of that story."

    March 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      If you REALLY want to KNOW its about MONEY – like EVERYTHING in the US. HEMP was VITAL to Commerce for CENTURIES – Canvas Sails and Hemp Ropes on EVERY Ship. CLOTHING was made in CHINA 3000 Years ago and still is. George Washington Grew it – and NOT just for ROPE as he writes about concern his crop had 'Gone to SEED' – which is the Female – SMOKING half of the 'Cane with Two Natures' which is What its NAME Cannabis Means.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      Hearst – NEWSPAPER MAN owned Trees for Paper and HEMP for PAPER would cut into his Profits. And then there was the ISSUE of DEMONIZING Pot Smokers – The Mexican nickname 'Marijuana' was used as Hispanic Immigrants were beginning to be a scapegoat. And BLACK PEOPLE in Eastern Cities could also be seen as DANGEROUS because certain sub-groups in the community Smoked Pot. There are OTHER Reasons but You Get the Idea

      March 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  8. LarryD

    Eventually the most hardened conservatives come around to the reality of how much harm has been done with marijuana being illegal vs. an environment where marijuana is legal, taxed and controlled. Probably the first famous conservative to switch positions to support legalization of marijuana was William F. Buckley in a 2004 National Review article. It is no longer a defensible position to rail against marijuana and one of these years all resistance will fall.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  9. Juan

    Christians stoners unite!

    March 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      when it becomes legal.... call me.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Jim

      I have known a lot of Christian stoners.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  10. PugPower

    It's sad that we have to make a big deal out of someone making a simply rational statement. Unfortunately, there are probably of lot of conservatives out there who share this view but are afraid to speak up. The zealots have taken control of the conservative movement in this country. It shouldn't be like this. Hopefully this will help bring some of these voices out.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  11. Joe

    Minnesota has to get on this also. The "war on drugs" has been a colossal failure. Marijuana should be 100% legal.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Mike P

      In Complete agreement. It's really silly making "illegal drug buys" for the last 25 years. Pot is so no big deal, I wrote a great paper in college advocating the legalization of marijuana, and got an "A". The benefits of making this move greatly outweigh the downside. I mean, at the end of the day, we are talking about pot, not cocaine, or heroin, or LSD, or something. Pot is a plant that anyone can grow, and its really not a big deal...

      March 8, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  12. oneSTARman

    The Real Question is: WHY is Occupied Afghanistan the SOURCE of 85% of the World's HEROIN? When the TALIBAN were in Control (NOT that I am a FAN – THEY are NAZI and KKK rolled into One) Opium Poppy Production for Export was virtually ELIMINATED. Within a Year of the CIA and HALLIBURTON arriving with the US Invasion – Opium Exports were at Today's Level.

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

      That's not the subject we're discussing. Stay on track.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  13. joe

    Legalize it, Tax it, And control it.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  14. Peter

    Never thought I'd live to see the day when I might agree with Pat Robertson.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  15. JeffPA

    I feel he's absolutely right about legalizing weed. I could sit here typing all day about the reasons why it should be legal, but most everyone heard that already. The fact is that it's not as harmful as the things that are legal. No one ever died from smoking pot. I feel he is correct, all we have to do is change the rules, and govern the usage of marijuana. Pilots shouldnt smoke, or doctors etc...but if your job would permit it go ahead. It would help our economy. Not everyone would be growing it, some yes...but for those that dont want to put in the effort, they will buy it...from stores, taxed, etc. The black market for weed would diminish because the price would be decreased as a result of being able to obtain it more easily from shops. And people need to clear the false deception that weed makes people lazy and stupid. I've smoked starting in college, and well, it hasn't hindered me in any way. In fact I always maintained good grades and am very good at my job. I've met smart ambitious people, and i've met useless pieces of crud, both stoners and non. Either way, its a good idea, and one day it will happen. Hopefully soon because I think our country needs a lot of help, and this could give a little. I'm not saying it will cure the economy, but it could create jobs, and revenue...just the way cigarettes and alcohol do. But it would also free up the burden on the legal system...making room for crooks that actually cause crime...not people messing around with a damn unaltered plant.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  16. us1776

    .
    "Make the most you can of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!"
    George Washington (1794)
    The Writings of George Washington, Volume 33, page 270 (Library of Congress)

    "Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country." ~ Thomas Jefferson

    "We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption." ~ John Adams

    “Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of
    sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
    (from a letter written by Lincoln during his presidency to the head of the Hohner Harmonica Company in Germany)

    .

    March 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      I remember back in the 70's .....uh...umm....oh never mind. Wait...yeah....throwing the frisbee and 'stuff' : )

      March 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  17. cutedog2

    Robinson wants to decriminalize pot...big deal. Next.
    The "mostly conservatives" who support Pat Robinson are minute. His thoughts on the subject are irrelevant to conservatives because his outlandish views have lost him political as well as theological credibility for well over a decade.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  18. Dan

    I hope Alabama is the first state to legalize pot. There's a long track of land behind my house that is for sale. I will buy it and grow weed on it. I can tend to it after I get off work and have a killer second income. Come on Alabama, make it legal already.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Mike

      Good luck competing with Phillip Morris

      March 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  19. lynn

    you go pat . 420 !

    March 8, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  20. JackBeHumble

    Legalize Pot, and you still have to have a war on Crystal Meth. Legalize Crystal Meth, and violent crime will skyrocket.

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

      Legalize pot and you would free up half of the money to fight Crystal Meth. We are talking about making pot legal, just like alcohol. No one suggested that Crystal Meth would also have to be legalized. We waste man power fighting to catch kids with pot when that man power could be freed up to fight the real problem.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • JamieIRL

      Well, nobody is talking about legalizing meth. If you decriminalized it I don't see why it would cause an increase in crime. If you sold it in stores legally on the other hand, I could see that potentially causing some problems! Also, meth isn't imported as much as some other drugs, like cocaine for example, since it's not grown, but rather made in the convenience of your home. That's why you always hear about meth labs being discovered in some random place in the United States, and you don't hear about truckloads coming in from Mexico so much. So really, there isn't a war on meth at this time. It's more like a -locate the labs, arrest the people, and shut them down. Where as cocaine, extasy, and marijuana are constantly shipped from south of the border and the battle to control that trade has created a real war between the 'dealers'. Our involvement is rather pointless at this time. We need a new idea and I have no idea what it is. I wouldn't say legalize hard drugs, but legalizing marijuana is a good start.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Ronald Raygun

      no one said they want to decriminalize meth

      March 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • about time

      Legalize pot! Tax the hell out of it and pay for your health care.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Marc

      what? Are you making a point that we shouldn't legalize pot b/c then we'll have to fight meth?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • michael

      Not sure what your point is, Jack. Legalize pot and you'll still have the war on meth? Yes. We'll still have the war on AIDs, and the war in Afghanistan, and the war on hunger, too.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:43 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.