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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. What's that? It's Pat!

    I don't smoke it myself, but from what I understand marijuana has limited negative medical side effects. I know some very successful and responsible people who use it, and they lead very normal lives. It just seems futile to try to stop its use. We should legalize it and regulate it to the hilt. Taxes from its use could go into education (irony?).

    March 8, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • pinostabaum

      easy on the regulate-it-to-the-hilt talk. over regulate anything and you just drive it to the black market. were trying to get it out of the black market.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  2. Zon

    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,”

    I'll have to say that's the first Christian thing I've heard him utter.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  3. Believer

    'Sorry LisaDe, I disagree. Legalizing pot is not symbolic of the Christian's stance against something that is so harmful to the human soul - the mind of the human is his soul. As Christians, we stand as warriors against the unseen world of warfare with prayers and faithfully stating the words of faith that have been imparted to us as Believers in Jesus Christ. This is the mission of the true Christian. True Christians hold back the onslaught of evil one and marijuana is one of many tools the evil spiritual enemy uses to devour the human soul. And Pat Robertson ought to be standing with the rest of us in this endeavor.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • What's that? It's Pat!

      Where does it say in the Bible that marijuana is evil? Just curious.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • chris

      who says its evil? you? the federal government? no where in the bible does it mention cannabis being evil.....so where do you get off using the holy father to further your own agenda? your a fake christain

      March 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  4. Weasley

    Never thought I'd see the day when I actually agreed with one of these guys. Now if they would just chill out when it comes to condoms (interesting choice of words) and birth control.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  5. andrewthree

    What about the costs of legalization? Greater drug addiction, more people under drug influence and consequent rise in economic and social problems in communities where many people seek escape and are susceptible to abusing marijuana, a weakening of the social norm against mind altering or mood altering drugs, and consequent rise in spiritual, professional, personal, health and financial problems for many people. To say there would be fewer people imprisoned, less drug-related crime and attendant costs and leave it at that is short-sighted.

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

      wrong.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Joey

      That is by all accounts the dumbest post I've read today. Congratulations.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Weasley

      The point of this article is that the war on drugs hasn't worked, so its time to try a different approach, and not be swayed by all this hypothetical nonsense. Come back later when you have some data to back up your claims.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • John

      Spoken like someone who's never tried it before in their life. It isn't even a fraction as addictive as nicotene or alcohol.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Yorick

      Andrew, the end of Prohibition clearly showed that the rate of use and addiction did not increase at all. The people who wanted it already got it, which is true with drugs today. Legalizing would not encourage significant numbers to try it – the people who want it already get it, and the people who do not want it would continue to not use it. History has already proven that.

      Do you really think that the only thing stopping people from using is laws? Really? Are you so blind as to not see that they are already using, that the laws don't work?

      All drugs should be legalized to the same extent that alcohol is, and taxed. All drugs. Drug gangs wither, violence decreases, prisons empty, less costs of enforcement and incarceration while revenues way up. You will still have addicts and the problems that go with them, but their numbers will not change.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Nope

      Legalization will change little in the numbers of people who use Marijuana. It is already the number one cash crop in America. To say that marijuana will ruin someone's spirituality is short sighted. It's obvious you have never smoked it. There are religions that make use of its spiritual enhancement. Also, I know very successful people who smoke it every day. The fact is marijuana use does not make a person different from who they already are. It simply gives them a different perspective while they are feeling its effects. Many medical and psychological studies seem to be indicating that this is not all together a bad thing. I recommend using it once, then judging.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • someGuy

      What about alcohol, prescription drugs, nicotine, caffeine, these are all mind-altering drug norms in american society. Prescription painkillers are derived from poppys and due to their medical grade purity are incredibly addictive, they result in massive amounts of deaths every year. Alcohol speaks for itself, as does tobacco abuse. If we had a contest to see who could OD first, you on caffeine and me on weed, you would lose. There have been no recorded incidents of deaths due to marijuana consumption in and of itself. Marijuana is classified as a schedule I drug, meaning to the government it is on the same level as meth, heroin and crack. Heroin is schedule I, derived from poppys, whereas painkillers, derived from poppys, are schedule II. Sorry but if you think marijuana is as powerful as oxycontin, then you are misinformed.

      I agree that driving while intoxicated is a problem, but it's a problem already. That is no reason to put people in prison simply for possession, give them criminal charges for driving while intoxicated, not for having a bag of herb. With a drug charge on your record you are barred from receiving any financial aid for school whatsoever, add in the prison time and the capacity for someone who receives said charges to be a contributing member of society is dramatically reduced. All for smoking a drug which is much, much less powerful and damaging than the most commonly abused, legal drugs in society today. Now consider prohibition, what happened with prohibition? It created a massive black market underbelly, it fed organized crime. That is what marijuana is doing right now.

      The mexican drug cartels main cash crop is marijuana, and their main buyers are the american people. You see ads talking about how buying drugs supports terrorism. Well, buying ILLEGAL drugs supports groups like the cartel. Buying prescription drugs or alcohol supports pharmaceutical and alcohol companies. If marijuana were decriminalized then american people could safely grow their own or buy their own marijuana from other americans, marijuana grown and sold here legally. Not to mention the fact that a drug dealer doesn't check ID, or care if they sell to underage kids. Marijuana is easier to get for a 16 year old than alcohol.

      In terms of your argument about the cost of legalization, what about the cost of law enforcement? We spend billions on marijuana, trying to keep people from smoking what is the least harmful of the known drugs. What about our prison system? This drug war feeds private prison companies, they want people in jail. They don't care about the morals of drug abuse, they just want more government contracts. Were this to become a major national issue, private prison, alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies would be the forces dumping billions into ads attacking the idea of legalizing marijuana.

      Another argument you seem to indicate is the laziness it would produce. I agree, marijuana makes people lazy. Can't deny it. By your argument we should make unhealthy food illegal. You go out and eat a bunch of burger king all the time, you can easily become fat, suddenly you are waiting for an elevator to take you up a staircase with only 8 steps.

      In terms of your argument about it inhibiting spiritual growth, that is your personal belief. The mere idea that you think you should force me to stop doing something that you think will inhibit me from growing spiritually is un-american. This is a free country. I respect your right to follow your faith, respect my right to choose for myself. According to the bible, god gave us free will because he wanted us to decide for ourselves. Let me do that, thank you.

      There is no legitimate reason to keep marijuana illegal. Your entire argument is based on your personal beliefs and propaganda that was pumped into the minds of your parents and grandparents decades ago.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • chris

      here read what happened in portugal 10yrs after they decriminalized all drugs http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/03/01/does-war-on-drugs-do-more-harm-to-america-than-actual-drugs/ ill never understand why in the day and age of the internet people continue to want to remain ignorant and for there idiotic opinions with no basis fact .

      the reason this country is in the mess its in is because voters like you believe what ever a politician tells them to believe

      March 8, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • andrewthree

      People should be able to make choices about their lives. I'm not interested in dictating to people how to live.

      What I'm concerned about is the effect on society of legalization. I can't deny that I also consider legalization an undesirable concession to evil, but I understand that others don't share that view.

      Prohibition of marijuana, it's true, is not the prohibition of all mind-altering drugs, because we still have alcohol, prescription meds, etc. But the opposite is also true: the legalization of marijuana is not the legalization of all mind-altering drugs, because there is still, cocaine, meth, etc. It is a step which leads us in a certain direction. It is true that we are financing violence and mayhem among our unfortunate neighbors to the south. It is also true that legalization of pot will not stop it.

      Are those advocating legalization honest and sincere in their contention that the costs will not outweigh the benefits? I am not an expert on drugs or prohibition, but if I research 20s prohibition will I find that the conventional wisdom is off, that many people did stay away from alcohol who would have otherwise used it, and who started using it after it was over?

      Whatever your spiritual beliefs, self-control is essential to a person's well-being (and to a country's well being). That is not somebody's propaganda, it is the truth. What direction are we headed? What message are we sending to people as a society? To the next generation? Do we really want to make mind-altering drugs more socially acceptable? I cannot avoid the feeling that the advocates of legalization have not really considered this carefully enough.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  6. Pat Robertson

    Man, I'd kill somebody for a bowl of Crunch Berries right now........

    March 8, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  7. JEV1A

    “I’ve never used marijuana states Mr. Robertson! please write following letter: Dear Lord, My sweet Jesus.. I have lied and lied thoughout my life, decieving the public and generally speaking making a complete ass of myself meanwhile reaping the harvest by taking from the poor! Please forgive me for all my sins and find me a bag of weed for cheap!

    March 8, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  8. thomas

    It will solve lots of problems.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  9. Joey

    Wow. It is officially 2012 and things are getting weird. Pat Robertson is making sense? What's next, is Obama going to do something intelligent? The end is near...

    March 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  10. Geoff

    Some people get more addled with old age. Pat's getting more lucid. Wow.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  11. nobody

    I think smoked a joint before he made these comments.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  12. david

    I wouldn't be surprised if he was "high on marijuana" when he spoke out for it !!

    March 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  13. Hassan

    this is way over due and its not no sign to the apocalypse.
    weed shouldve been legalized a long time ago. tax it, stimulate the economy and get all those poor kids out of jail.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • chris

      it should never have been made illegal it wasnt about some crime wave of people high on weed it was because blacks played that devil jazz music and made white women want to sleep with blacks and the mexicans liked it so it must be bad

      March 8, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  14. HawHaw

    This proves that even a moron knows marijuana should be legalized!!

    March 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  15. The Jagged One

    Without a doubt, it would be a better world if everyone smoked weed.

    "I'd like to teach the world to sing."

    March 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  16. Ivy

    He does look pretty baked in that picture.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  17. Jim L

    I smoke marijuana nearly every night. ( I dont smoke it and go to work and dont think you should.) I dont drink because of the damage it can do to your liver. Get a DWI and your screwed along with your hard earned 15K that it will take you to get out of jail and take care of the problem you have ahead of you, fighting the justice system.
    With that said , I think I will roll one up instead of making a drink.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      jim....i agree totally. i am the same

      March 8, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Chuck

      Well that about sums up my take.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • nobody

      But, if you smoke that joint then drive, you get as much of a DUI as you would with alcohol.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Johnny Blammo

      Given a choice between driving on roads that were filled with nothing but weed-stoned drivers, and driving on a road were all of the drivers were perfectly sober except one very drunk driver, I would immediately choose the stoned drivers. I am definitely not recommending driving stoned, but alcohol affects the body in a very negative way when it comes to coordination and reflexes, and pot is far less disruptive. It's effects are more in the head than the body, which is why potsmokers used to be called "heads".

      Don't operate machinery while intoxicated. But all the same, alcohol is massively worse on driving performance.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • chris

      i prefer a bowl don't use as much i can make a quarter of afgan kush last about 2 weeks that way

      March 8, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  18. BlackMatterBeaver

    He's still a worthless and ignorant devil spawn.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  19. Jeepers

    Another sign of the apocalypse...

    Also, I completely agree, although it doesn't agree with me...can you be allergic to pot or is not being able to catch your breath the point?

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

      Sounds like you have some form of asthma or something... I would suggest looking into ways of baking it into foods for direct ingestion instead of smoking. 🙂

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

      No. One of the medicinal uses of MJ is as a mild bronchial dialator, used for stuffy noses and asthma.
      Of course, you can take too big of a hit if smoking it, and the expansion factor and smoke particulates can make you cough it out, (most users try to "hold it in" and suppress the coughing response), but you're not going to have an allergic reaction.

      The bronchio-dialtive effect is almost instantaneous, much much faster than OTC nasaal spray, w/o the rebound or addictive effects of the sprays.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Metalkid

      Some people are more sensitive to the smoke particulates than others. Cooking with it, (pot brownies, dastard pesto pasta

      March 9, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • Metalkid

      .....Damn touch screen! .....continuing: rasta presto pasta, etc) are a good alternative, although the buzz is more of a mild overall body buzz (still very nice).

      Vaporization is also a smoke free alternative, and does not induce the paranoia that some people experience. Although I've wondered if that is more of a psychological reaction to the fact that it's illegal, than a physiological response.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  20. i wonder

    So it looks like the far majority of people favor legalization. Many states have voted for legalization, but are stymied by federal laws. What's it going to take to get the feds' thumbs out of their ears?

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

      Funny that they have both ears there. They can sit on both at once.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:07 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.