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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. Mike

    It makes no sense to me that we allow the drug alcohol, but not marijuana. How many more billions of taxpayer dollars are we going to waste on this failed 'drug war'? (btw ..... I don't use marijuana!)

    March 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  2. Patrick B

    Wow! I actually AGREE with something this man said for the first time!

    March 8, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  3. mark99er

    Could you imagine going to the convenience store and buying a pack of Marlbones or Lucky Tokes. I'd rather light than switch!

    March 8, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  4. Hugenot

    Pat does look pretty happy in that photo. Hmmm..

    March 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  5. Bud

    Yeah if it's gotta be illegal, at the very least make it a ticketable offense instead of putting kids in prison for it. Some people say the reason we can't make progress on this issue, even though everyone supports it, is that police unions push for keeping it illegal so that they can justify more funding and bigger unions. It's sad when people have a financial incentive to put harmless people in jail, and then do it.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Sherri

      I never thought I'd live to see the day he said something like that. Even my 80 year old mother thought that. I wonder when the rest of the country will realize that it is no more harmful (less harmful in many ways) than booze. I mean when people drink too much, they get rowdy, want to fight etc. When people get high, well they want to eat, and sleep. Where's the problem? And as for it leading to other, harder drugs, I completely disagree, based on many people I know. Whereas drunks like to go out and get behind the wheel and kill others.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  6. Aaron

    I never thought I would use the sentence, but here goes. I completely agree with Pat Robertson.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take a long shower, scrub hard, and cry.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • FL Jimmy

      LOL... and I agree Aaron.

      I guess if we live long enough eventually one sees everything.

      I can't help but respect an 81 year old who has been wrong on everything for 82 years and yet can change. Wowsa.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Erik

      Same here – can't believe I'm ageeing with Pat Robertson.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  7. AE Pucc

    Your will hear about it on tonight's news!!! No that is NOT a UFO, but a pig flying over New York!!! Don't know about you but I am going to burn one now! Because I think I see flying pigs or is it the Sun flare?? Praise the lord & pass the Bong....

    March 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  8. joshu

    How about we legalize marijuana and impose a steep sales tax so it'll boost revenue? Thoughts?

    March 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Right

      yeah totally, it's not like people can grow this herb; it's totally controllable... Get real... The fact that something which naturally grows and has produced 0 deaths is a real testament to our nations declaration of independence and bill of rights... might as well bring back slavery...

      March 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  9. John the Baptist

    It would take a complete economic collapse before this plant became legalized but of course it would be to late by then.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • ...hard to not be a democrat...

      We are in near economic collapse-for some "reason" the powers that be conform to the D.E.A. definition of "dangerous" or "addictive". It's just a "weed" -not as dangerous or addictive as alcohol (which is legal and taxed). I could comment more eloquently on this if I wasn't drunk!!

      March 8, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  10. BlueMist

    Pat Robertson said the tornadoes ripped through KY and IN because the people weren't praying enough. Not that I ever had respect for his looney a** anyway, but how does he even have a job?

    March 8, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • ...hard to not be a democrat...

      it's not Bourbon unless it is distilled in KY!!

      March 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  11. ...hard to not be a democrat...

    Who could have imagined the voice of reason would come from Pat Robertson?? "...one toke over the line sweet Jesus..."

    March 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • FL Jimmy

      The world may not be safe for Twinkies much longer.-

      March 8, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  12. JonahBC

    Canada maybe close to going from unofficial legalization to decriminalization, 66% at the last poll. Unfortunately Canada's PM these days is to busy dancing with China & Iceland.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Bob

      I actually thought BC was pretty much already there. Will they actually arrest you if you are smoking weed? If so I need to change my plans, I was going to go to Vancouver for a weekend and see if I could find some weed.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Andrew

      First, the Canadian federal government is making tougher anti-marijuana laws right now under the conservatives, despite pleas from numerous groups saying "tougher laws do not work".

      However in BC, yeah, it's decriminalised, so a cop will not arrest you for smoking weed, or if they catch you with weed, however they would be obligated to take the weed away, and further, if they're d- ks they'll also take or break whatever piece you were smoking out of.

      Also you cannot buy weed in shops because while it's decriminalised, it's still illegal, so they may not arrest you, but you still need some contacts to buy it. Then again, it is Vancouver, so in truth you can walk down Granville street and someone *probably* could hook you up as long as you don't seem too creepy.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • JonahBC

      If you smoke weed in BC we just ask that you do it in private as to not offend anyone with the odor and smoke...thank you very much... and enjoy your stay:)

      March 8, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • ...hard to not be a democrat...

      Eh?

      March 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Andrew

      Jonah, umm... do it in private? What? Offend anyone with the smell? Huh? People smoke outdoors in public all the time in Van, the only real rule is 'don't do it near a cop'. Doing it in privates would prevent smoking in Stanley Park, and that's one of the best places in the world to get baked.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  13. Sue Hutson

    There is some sanity after all!! ALCOHOL kills so many and does so much more damage!

    March 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Bob

      That's true on the bottle, but is it because it's alcohol or because it's legal and easy to come by?

      March 8, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • JonahBC

      Excessive alcohol can create a violent, abusive, out of your mind state in a human, let alone what it does internally in your body...MJ on the other hand has the opposite effects.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  14. yes

    no one has ever died from smoking marijuana. overdosing means you just get tired and pass out sleeping. many many many people have died from man made chemicals such as alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines. if God told us to use all the herb of the land, than using marijuana for stress/pain relief should be one of them. its organic and you dont have to burn it, you can also vaporize or make it into oil and eat it.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Bob

      I don't disagree but Alcohol is not man made. It's made by yeast as a by product of their growth cycle. Now we do distill it down and make really strong but the yeast make it.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  15. Bob

    Finally, I mean really, I've never smoked it either but here I sit with a beer in my hand, wondering why weed is illegal. Really it would be easier to regulate and tax. Not to mention we could then focus this drug problem on real drugs that create real problems. I can't believe it but I'm saying go Pat go.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  16. S

    Pat Robinson is making sense? Has hell frozen over?

    March 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • yes

      no, simply. facts have prevailed. no one has ever died from smoking marijuana. overdosing means you just get tired and pass out sleeping. many many many people have died from man made chemicals such as alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines. marijuan is organic and you dont have to burn it, you can also vaporize or make it into oil and eat it.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • yes

      no, simply. facts have prevailed. no one has ever died from smoking marijuana. overdosing means you just get tired and pass out sleeping.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Bob

      No kidding, I think I drank to much this afternoon, I had to read this article twice just to believe it.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    It's about time.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  18. Soonpati Parataneum O'o'o'glacealla

    I smoke ganja everyday. Most people would find it absolutely staggering if they knew who I was and what I do for a living! ( I drink sometimes, and that is by far the greater of the two evils.) One thing that should be noted for anyone who has no experience with the herb is the range in potency. My daily stuff is pretty weak compared to other kinds, basically like a lite beer compared to 40 proof. Yo'all do what you need to do, it makes no impact on me personally (ie. I'll still grow, still burn, still smile)

    March 8, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  19. danny smith

    Really? This guy is and always has been a joke. So Pat – seen god lately? No ? Didn't think so.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  20. One one

    Does god send people to hell for smoking weed ?

    March 8, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • USAJOHN

      wow I hope not! Although i do welcome his endorsement, only because alot of people listen to him, and pot should have been legalized years ago. The truth is it has made the Gangs and Drug Lords rich. Just as prohibition did to the gangsters of the 30's, Its time for Government to let us make up our own mind. Dont tell me it is to protect the "children" when i was 15 i could get as much as I wanted, Regulate it Tax it, and bust anyone you catch getting high while driving...

      March 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • sam

      And of course the drug lords will immediately convert their operations to growing potatoes, right?

      March 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Andrew

      It's also made police and alcohol lobbyists very rich too. In fact, there aren't many industries that aren't lobbying against marijuana legalization, for fear of hemp production being ramped up above all else. There's an entire market to keeping the war on drugs alive, and it doesn't just benefit the cartels and gangs.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Andrew

      And Sam, no, but with people able to buy weed in shops, the number who need to go through the black market to get it would really dramatically decline. They simply wouldn't have the income to maintain farms to grow the stuff because there wouldn't be a demand to buy it under the table.

      Consider it what happened to gangs after prohibition, their business model fell apart, so they had to take their profits and run.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:47 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.