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. PT

    As a pretty conservative Christian I've felt this way for years. There really isn't any logical reason to keep treating MJ as though it were something that will kill on sight. I'd actually go farther than most of the proposals and suggest that the possession, use and growth of pot should be completely legal and without restriction, but any sale would have to be licensed. You could therefore grow all you want for your own use and give it away for free but not sell or trade it for goods. That would really help control the gang and organized crime side of things.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  2. davetharave

    Wow, he has said something I agree with ! <>

    March 8, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  3. paganguy

    Everybody talks about legalization. Why don't we just delete all the laws about marijuana and treat it like an ordinary product.
    The government should get out of the "legalization" business but should get out of the criminalization business too. All of a sudden the thing can be taxed. Great.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • JonahBC

      Make it simple. De-criminalize it then leave it alone. Buy it from a store or throw a seed in your garden....whatever floats your boat. No need to legalize it.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Andrew

      Huh? In order to tax, the substance must be legal. So the whole 'legalize it' argument is exactly what you just said... which is why I'm confused by what you meant with 'the government should get out of the legalization business'. It's not like we have a law on the books saying alcohol is legal, it's just we no longer have laws on the books saying it's illegal.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  4. Nate Dawg

    Hey hey hey-ey-ey-ey!
    Smoke weed ev'ry day!

    March 8, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  5. iBod

    Smoking a nice Home-Grown, American Made joint without having to worry about being charged of a crime.

    I'll tell ya, those would be the beginnings of great times.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  6. SoJax

    OMG, I agree with Pat Robertson on an issue. It must be freaky Thursday!

    March 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  7. kalo

    The only bad drug is an untaxed drug.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  8. MrsFizzy

    Most sensible thing I've ever heard him say...!

    March 8, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  9. ComeOnMan9

    Pat Robertson you is a blessed saint to me now!

    March 8, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  10. GenericMan

    No, I would enjoy a weed brownie right about now. It's no worse than the addictive nicotine, addictive depressants alcohol, or stimulants consumed by everyday people.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • JonahBC

      Ah... to live in BC and have a puff after work.... thank you dear lord....

      March 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • SoJax

      No kidding!

      March 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  11. JonahBC

    Free Marc Emery first....

    March 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  12. Djinn And Tonic

    Wait, what? Pat Robertson wants to legalize the herb??? I must have smoked waaay too much, CNN is f'n with me.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  13. GenericMan

    legalize it. I would enjoy a smoke maybe 1-2 times a month.

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


      March 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Clarissa

      every day dude.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  14. Reilleyfam

    People behave much more Christian when on cannibis. I think using it is God's will. Alcohol is a man made intoxicant, as are all others. The only one that comes direct from God, from nature, is cannibis. People seem Christian on cannibis and very very unChristian on booze and other drugs.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • skarphace

      Not the only drug. Opium, for example, also comes from a plant.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • YourMom

      That's why it's called the Devil's Water.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • One one

      The bible says Jesus turned water into wine. Maybe he also turned palms into weed.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Clarissa

      Assuming Christian is what people want? How subjective.......NEXT

      March 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      how is that behaving more christian?

      March 11, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  15. One one

    He looks like he just finished a blunt.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  16. kevin

    FINALLY, something Pat & I agree upon. Plus, he didn't invoke ANY christianity when making this statement.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  17. Thinker's Dam

    I've never heard anyone say that they can't get marijuana if they wanted it. That includes high school students. I doubt that legalizing it will make any difference for adults being able to get it, and maybe it will make it harder for kids to get it. Even Milton Friedman agreed with making it legal.

    I think having possession be a crime is like having a life-threatening allergy. The body can be allergic to harmless substances like peanut butter with an allergic reaction that can kill. Similarly with illegal drugs. You are in far more danger from the legal system trying to catch you and stick you in jail with REAL criminals than from the drugs themselves. Also, the drugs being illegal means that there is no guarantee that you are ingesting what you think you are ingesting. They could be contaminated with lethal substances, like that cocaine that was circulating a couple of years ago. Legalize, regulate, tax, and treat it as a medical problem, not a legal one.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Clarissa

      I am in college and it is literally everywhere, I can call at least 10 different people that could point me in the direction of their dealer, maybe why they are my friends in the first place. lol... I smoke all the time, its amazing lol

      March 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  18. blueeyeskc50

    A number of studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • kevin

      I suffer from none of those.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • skarphace

      So you are saying that alcohol and cigarettes should also be illegal? Because there are bad long-term side-effects from those as well.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • ComeOnMan9

      if that was so, i would be dead as a door nail. Dead as 4 o'clock. Dead as you got to die! I got anxiety, anxiety that they may stop growing it.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Joe

      Yea, thats all because it is illegal !!!!!

      Take away the the fear of being arrested, thrown in jail and loose your job because you take a little toke and you eliminate the anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia.

      Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

      Do your research, it has over 1000 medical and industrial uses. Get educated before you post.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Dangle66

      Chronic use of anything is usually bad for you. Drink too many soft drinks and you will get diabetes.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • One one

      Pretty much the same symptoms I get on Monday morning.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • momoya

      And some sufferers of those ailments NEED the drug to cope.. It's medicine, folks! Home remedy.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • JonahBC

      Dude.. you do know that MJ has been noted to treat such.....

      March 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • V

      Yet you directly quote none of them...

      March 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • davetharave

      Those are caused by going to work.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • ibrad

      Studies can be worked to get any answer you want. But facts are facts.
      2007/159,000 people died from smoking a legal product the govt sells, not one person died from marijuana use in that same year FACT!

      March 8, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Elmo

      Ah Cannabis Psychosis. Which is an actual ICD-9 code in medical billing. We are seeing this used in California Ambulatory Clinic's a lot recently since anyone can get a Herb Card if your willing to stand in line for 30 min to an hour. If you smoke everyday it must be managed. Every drug of abuse has a behavioral psychosis consequence. Not all humans are created equal so the mental consequences of use may not always be good. Some people are just mentally weak and couldn't maintain adult functionality regardless of their stimulant of choice. Legal herb means potent herb and managing its use requires greater discipline due to the increased potency.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Elmo

      A number of studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia.

      That's an incorrect interpretation of the study. It has been shown to exacerbate these conditions if they preexist. Which means herb does the same thing as all other drugs of abuse.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  19. blueeyeskc50

    Research on the long-term effects of marijuana abuse indicates some changes in the brain, similar to those seen after long-term abuse of other major drugs.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • skarphace

      Including alcohol and nicotine, as well as many perscription and even over the counter drugs.

      Therefore: your point?

      March 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • MJ Shaw

      And the long term effects of marijuana use are what? Laziness. Forgetfulness.

      I've personally never met a pothead that was any sort of threat toward others. Comparing this "drug" to other, harder, more violence-inducing drugs is unreasonable.

      The whole anti-marijuana thing started because the U.S. timber industry was threatened (financially) by hemp. It was a money-motivated campaign that won because of the human consumption effects on marijuana's users. It was a fear campaign based on these effects, but underneath the motivation was really about how hemp was a versatile resource that was competing too successfully against the timber industry's goals...

      March 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • davetharave

      Only cure for Glaucoma

      March 8, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  20. Mr Chihuahua

    I think his buddy with the shades smoked a little too much, he looks paranoid lol!

    March 8, 2012 at 6:41 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.