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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. James

    the only intelligent thing he has ever said in public.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  2. cpc65

    Well that explains a lot about some of his senseless rantings.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  3. Texas Billie

    Great news ! Don't agree with Pat Robertson on most other subjects, but he's got it right on legalization of marijuana. As to "Reality" quoting from drugabuse.gov/publications/infofacts/marijuana – what do you expect from a federal government website that is anti-marijuana? Of course they will stress the negatives, but Pat Robertson is correct that the present criminalization of marijuana smoking and possession actually creates criminals because of the severe penalties imposed. Legalization is the answer to many problems and will decrease the "illegal drug trade", keep a lot of Americans out of jail,l and bring in a lot of needed tax revenue.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  4. faberm

    I agree with Pat on this. I am a Christ Follower and am in favor of legalization Marijuana even though I don't choose to smoke it. It is not a Christian issue, and I don't know many Christians who would oppose it on any sort of Biblical grounds.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  5. Rev. John

    Nice to know that Jesus wasn't the only one who wants to set the captives free. If only the rest of Christianity would read Gen 1:29-31, this would be a religious issue and not a criminal one.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • perryw

      Amen. I am a Christian and never understood why other Christians want it to be illegal.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • cbinal

      1 Thes 5:5-11.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • cbinal

      @perry If you or a family memeber is ever hit by someone under the influence. Then you'll know why.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    Even I think this is a good idea.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    March 8, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • ASDF

      glad to see you took the time to think out a well-reasoned argument by copying and pasting

      March 8, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Patrick

      Off topic, unsupported and highly delusional. Fail!

      March 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  7. ASDF

    Well, Pat Robertson and I have something in common. Time to kill myself.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  8. Warren

    Good post Reality. Of course Marijuana is not good for you, probably nothing that affects the brain – including some foods – is entirely beneficial. However, the same is true for alcohol, and a variety of over the counter drugs which have various side effects. I think the point is simply that the so-called "War on Drugs" has been a complete fiasco and absorbed a ton of money with little result. Legalizing marijuana would allow the government to control it, set standards and produce tax revenue and by controlling the price, do far more to limit the illegal traffic in drugs and thus reduce (somewhat) the potential income sources for criminal groups. The money generated can then be used in part to go after more serious drugs (and yes that may not work either). The real solution to our problems with drug abuse are socio-economic I have no doubt.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  9. Edsr

    In this photo, Pat Robertson LOOKS like he is on the weed! If they legalize the weed, what will they legalize next? Are we going to have a country full of potheads driving cars on our roads?

    March 8, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • perryw

      We already do. People will use it whether we legalize it or not. The only thing that will change is the amount of people in jail.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • ASDF

      at least if everyone were driving stoned they'd be doing it slowly. I'd take a highway filled with potheads over drunks any day.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Miguezz

      So people that didn't drink and drive during prohibition started to only once it became legal? Think about it, and stoners r more cautious and far to lazy to even get in a car.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Patrick

      Don't feed the troll. This twerp knows, just like the rest of us, that smoking weed while driving is not an issue. If you smoke enough to be even remotely dangerous on the road there is know way you would be anywhere near motivated to get in a car. Can't say that for booze.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • One one

      IT'S SATAN'S HERB !!!!

      March 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Joey

      What a well thought our argument....try again.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  10. cbinal

    @Joe – you can be my first customer. Stupid was what I think of people who do drugs, not their IQ.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  11. San Jose Jay

    “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.

    And how does he know this? This is not a religious or political issue, it's an issue of personal freedom and opposition to a black and white persecution for anything classified as a controlled substance.

    I'm a Christian republican pot head... and I approve this message!

    March 8, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  12. Cleareye

    Congratulations to Robertson. It took courage for him to come clean with his conscience. Too bad more Christians can't seem to match his wisdom.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  13. El Guapo

    I agree with Pat's point. I think in moderation, just like alcohol, smoking pot is ok. But I'm on the wall about it still. Myself, I was addicted to weed for many years. (meaning, if I had it, I had to smoke it and if I didn't have any I wanted more) I've been off weed for over a year now and I feel very "on-point". The problem I have with legalizing it is now that I am sober (and getting sober was tough), I can see how it affected me. I'm alot "quicker" now mentally, and I don't need a substance as a crutch to lean on when I'm stressing. (Whenever I would stress before, I'd feel the need to smoke to deal with it.) Making this readily available to everyone has a downside – your harming your ability to cope with real life situations, and you're lowering your ability to think at a higher level. There's really no other way for me to put as this, legalizing it would solve prison problems, but the real solution is just don't smoke. If you can't do the time then don't do the crime.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @ El Guapo

      Gimme a break, addicted? Really? Sorry but can you define that further? I mean sure if smoking something makes you feel good and so you want to use it when you have it, that's sort of an addiction, but what the critics call addiction is when you start going through withdrawal after a certain amount of days, or even hours, of not having smoked. When you'll start selling everything you have or stealing from parents or grandparents just to get a gram. My guess is that you were addicted the same way people who drink coffee or ride roller coasters are addicted.

      I get that you probably feel mentally quicker when you haven't smoked for a while and thats great, but if weed were to be legalized today would you fall into a spiral of smoking all day, every day and lose all sort of mental capacity?

      March 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • The Four Stoners of the Apocalypse Stop at Taco Bell for Munchies

      You can be on the fence, or you can be off the wall, but it makes no sense to be "on the wall" about something.

      Iggy Pop once said in an interview that he had stopped taking drugs, but then, realizing that that would alienate his core audience, said :"But I still think stoned thoughts!" "On the wall" is in that category.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • The Four Stoners of the Apocalypse Stop at Taco Bell for Munchies

      Actually chuckles, you can be addicted to pot, but it is not as common as addiction to alcohol or opiates or meth or benzoes. They do get withdrawals that include agitation, aggressiveness, As the addiction developes, they get increasing memory problems. As the addiction developes, they get increasing memory problems. As the addiction developes, they get increasing memory problems. As the addiction developes, they get increasing memory problems.

      Did I mention the memory problems?

      March 8, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • AndrewL

      I've stopped smoking cigarettes for over two months now. It has been a difficult process with numerous attempts. Smoking marijuana is not physically addictive, yet nicotine in cigarettes is. The way you used marijuana to escape problems could be accomplished through other means. For example, there are individuals who will play video games to escape their problems. I think people need to take responsibility for their own actions.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @ The Four Stoners of the Apocolypse

      I mean, sure some people have memory pro- Oh a butterfly!

      What was I saying? Oh yeah, addiction is a relative term that gets bandied about a little too much and is one of the things that is harmful to weed's image. Sure there are some memory problems and I'll be the first to admit that sometimes i have issues with memories and memories and once or twice I've gotten slightly miffed when I was out, but to say that's what makes an addiction and so it should be prohibited is ludicrous.

      The type of addiction you describes could be for coffee, or video games, or roller coasters. If you have an addictive personality and you get into something and then abprubtly stopped there's going to be a type of withdrawal in the loosest sense of the word, but you don't see the government or even special interest groups lobbying to limit video game playing to X number of hours a week or that a person is only legally allowed to have X number of coffees on a weekly basis.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • El Guapo

      After not smoking and breaking the cycle, I saw that I was addicted. When I look at my stoner friends and my sober friends, I have to say that my sober friends are the alpha's in the pack, mentally speaking. #justsayin

      March 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Chuckles

      El Guapo,

      You're still.... what's the word I'm looking for..... missing the point. I'm not going to even try and pretend that anyone who smokes weed is usually an intellectual giant but you don't understand addiction and to claim you were addicted because your sober friends are smarter than your stoner friends and that when you weren't smoking you wanted to smoke is false.

      It's lies like this that help anti-legalization people to use it as a way to prove the ill effects of marijuana and keep spending money and energy locking up, prohibiting and generally wasting time locking up "criminals" who's only crime is owning a plant.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • The Four Stoners of the Apocalypse Stop at Taco Bell for Munchies

      "The type of addiction you describes could be for coffee, or video games, or roller coasters." Coffee yes, good analogy; video games or roller coasters, no – no physical component to the addiction. You do get withdrawal symptoms with coffee and cigarettes that make them both difficult to quit – same for pot. That is not even remotely to say that it is like opiates, where the withdrawal is true physical torture.

      I think you are trying to say that pot is only a psychological addiction and not a physical one, but I have helped a couple heavy daily long-term tokers kick, and they definitely went through physical issues that really made them want to use again to stop them. Some pot smokers do develop physical addiction, but you are probably right that it is not the majority, nor that it is like an alcoholic who has crossed the addiction line.

      "If you have an addictive personality: – there is no such thing. Addiction is somehow related to the mid-brain and the hypothalamus – the mechanism is not understood yet. Character and personality have little to do with it, despite all the propaganda from the 12-step movement. Virtually all adult Americans are addicted to caffeine. It would be ridiculous to say that they had personality defects. Same with smokers. Not a matter of character or personality. Indeed, you can addict anybody on virtually any addictive substance by giving them enough. Virtually all cancer patients in hospice become addicts, but it just doesn't matter.

      Addiction is not a result of character defects, spiritual defects, a disease, or even genetics as they are commonly portrayed to apply (there may be some genetic component, but it still not clearly understood, and it is definitely not what pop culture thinks – there is no addiction/alcoholism gene).

      Interesting discussion. Thanks. Do expect the 12-step zealots to charge in and attack me. They are as bad as religious people (okay, they ARE religious people) when it comes to beliefs totally unsupported by evidence, and using dishonest argumentation.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • fred

      chuckles
      I guess what you're saying is treat it like a beer yet the target market for drug dealers is 9-17 year olds. If they start young they smoke longer than those who wait. Let me see spend millions on anti smoking but, this is good smoke?
      oh, don't forget to regulate the % of good stuff that can be in a joint

      March 8, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Yorick

      The target market of drug dealers is whoever has cash. They don't really have target markets – that is the thinking of corporations. The target market for tobacco is definitely the 9-17 group, though they don't admit it, as that is when most start smoking. That is also the market for the alcohol industry as well, though they hide it too. Same reason.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • fred

      yorick
      Up to this point those selling marijuana have had the dream marketing distribution system enveyed by most marketing executives. Word of mouth advertising, low labor cost, no taxes, no health insurance plans for workers and no product liability.
      When the government gets their hands on the business they will lower the quality of the high, triple the price and only allow union teamsters to deliver the product. Catholic schools will be forced to offer it to their young girls with the birth control packages at no charge.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  14. Elroy

    In Washington state there will be a measure on the ballot this November regarding the full legalization of cannabis. The proposed law is quite comprehensive, including provisions for growing/manufacturing, distribution, taxation and even legal limits for driving under the influence. Using cannabis would be legal only for adults 21 years of age and older.

    Robertson's well reasoned backing of cannabis legalization will help sway older Washingtonians towards voting for the measure. Polls have already shown that most younger residents already support the measure.

    Folks, I think the days of cannabis prohibition are about to come to an end.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  15. Zuni

    Lol you KNOW dat old geezer blunted as a muthafuka!

    March 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Phil

      Now that's funny!

      March 8, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  16. TJeff1776

    Reminds me of prohibition days........bootleggers DIDN'T want that law taken off the books. LOL And now lots of South American money will flow into this country against removing marijuana laws. INDEED, if it wasn't for their $$$$$ the laws would have been removed years ago.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  17. Just me

    wow..i just might start liking this guy

    March 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Gregory

      I won't start liking him just yet. I think that he may have invested in a pot farm somewhere. He doesn't strike me as the kind of person that always does the right thing... at least not without compensation. He's still still a big looser.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Sandy

      He's keeping up with the times. If his brand they've built is to maintain an audience into the future it needs to get with the program! LOL. What used to be a political hot potato, no politician would touch – today it would make their poll numbers go up to consider Federal Decriminalization, state legislated. Irony.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  18. its-about-time

    The government had no problem legalizing liquor, which brought tons of cash in from taxes, but destroyed untold millions upon millions of lives, yet they bristle at the thought of legalizing marijuana which would have the coffers over flowing with surplus cash again and probably just screw up half of the people liquor did . . . and as much as I despise Pat Robertson and all like him, it's one of the first intelligent things I've heard him utter . . . yet I personally think he wants it legalized because of his fear of being caught scoring a doobie in a dark, cheesy alley some night.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  19. Reality

    The reference below is required reading for those wanting to legalize another dangerous drug. We have enough health and safety issues with nicotine and ethyl alcohol and huge medical costs therefrom..

    http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/infofacts/marijuana

    "How is Marijuana Abused?

    Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette (joint) or in a pipe. It is also smoked in blunts, which are cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with a mixture of marijuana and tobacco. This mode of delivery combines marijuana's active ingredients with nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Marijuana can also be mixed in food or brewed as a tea. As a more concentrated, resinous form, it is called hashish; and as a sticky black liquid, hash oil. Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive, usually sweet-and-sour odor.

    How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?

    "Scientists have learned a great deal about how THC acts in the brain to produce its many effects. When someone smokes marijuana, THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body.

    THC acts upon specific sites in the brain, called cannabinoid receptors, kicking off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the "high" that users experience when they smoke marijuana. Some brain areas have many cannabinoid receptors; others have few or none. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentrating, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.1

    Not surprisingly, marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory. Research has shown that, in chronic users, marijuana's adverse impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off.2 As a result, someone who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all of the time."

    March 8, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • atroy

      ".....distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory...."

      Are you sure you not talking about religion??

      March 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Sean Russell

      You don't have to smoke marijuana. You can use a vaporizer- eliminating the tobacco and smoke hazards.

      But thanks for cutting and pasting a lot of old propaganda. How very original! If you don't want to drink or smoke pot- just don't do it. I love how you try to make it sound like you're concerned about people's health. It's obvious that it's more of a case of wanting to dictate to other people.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • BBPatriot

      Sorry, big guy. But I've been smoking off and on for forty years, and I'm three chapters from finishing my dissertation and phd (already have the masters).

      And I think if there was a survey of graduate students in the US on the subject, I'd be the norm rather than the exception.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Joe

      Think for yourself much? I didn't think so.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Reality, if you choose not to use it, good for you. I also choose not to use it. But what gives you or any govt the authority over others bodies to tell them what they can't put in it?

      March 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Cleareye

      You must work for the tobacco industry. We'd be a lot better off if pot was legal and nicotine was not.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Phil

      I think you left out "psychotic killing sprees and leaping off buildings"

      March 8, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • yo

      U dont put tobacco and weed in a blunt, just weed, jeez morons

      March 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Sandy

      That is why vaporizers, which eliminate the negatives from regular burning of cannabis to inhaling the canabinoids means there is simply no reason to not treat this as a medicine. As you point out our brains are wired to use this as medicine. We need to learn more about these receptors in our brain, we know the benefits to the sick at least.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  20. Ryan Meeks

    Of course, he's viewed as a "prophet" by the "know-nothings" the second he agrees with them; I'm sure they appreciate all of his other views as well.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:06 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.