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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. Ramsey T

    This is not a big deal. Pat Robinson has a right to have an opinion on whatever topic or issue he has an opinion on. This is a, "story," because he is considered to be a conservative Christian leader or media figure. His views are not the collective view of either Christians in general or conservatives. I personally agree with him but does that make me a hypocrite? I am a Christian so some may view my opinion heretical or hypocritical. The truth is there are many things that are legal that I do not participate in... that doesn't mean I think they should all be criminalized or illegal. I do not think weed should be illegal but I also have no idea how it could be regulated to protect mainly drivers on the road from "smoked out" users.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • thefunkymonkey

      Doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that we can't smoke marijuana. In fact it explains how God put everything on Earth for man's consumption and usage. This guy whether you agree with him or not is a Christian Conservative power figure; he one of the most if not the most significant leaders of the Right. By him saying this is a complete game changer on the entire issue in general. I never expected this but I have always agreed with what he is now saying.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • someGuy

      thank you for thinking about this rationally. I agree that intoxicated drivers are a problem, with a reduction in the amount of spending used on this issue, we could afford to put more cops on the road. The main point I would make on that topic is that those drivers are out there already. Also that at least with marijuana, the driver will be low key and calm, more likely to get in a slow moving fender bender, as opposed to accidents I have witnessed where a drunk driver is all but blacked out at the wheel, going 65 down a 35 mph business district road.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  2. jdoe

    Why does America insist on throwing non-violent people in prison for something that harms no one else, where they learn to become hardened in order to survive. Then once they're released they can't find a decent job because of a permanent record, and are more likely to turn criminal. This system creates more criminals and further harms society. The only beneficiary is the growing private prison industry.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Bob

      Because people stupid enough to break the law to get a buzz deserve all the bad that comes to them.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • jdoe

      Bob: You don't get it do you? How about declaring that gathering in large groups is illegal, then throwing people in jail for it. They do that in dictatorships and you'd be the first sheep to comply.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  3. Scott

    Smartest thing this man ever said.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  4. someGuy

    Seriously people, do not show yourselves supporting this movement in the open if you look like a hippy, or a lazy non-contributor. Everytime I see a tie-dye shirt at a pro-pot rally I know that we have been set-back. To get this to actually go through, we need upstanding citizens to stand up and point out the hypocrisy, the wasteful spending, the fact that illegalizing drugs has been proven to be ineffective, the fact that the drug cartels make so much money on marijuana, and the fact that people are in prison for nonviolent crimes. Lives are ruined unnecessarily.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • someGuy

      and by upstanding, I don't mean if you are hippyish you are not upstanding, what I mean is you should show up looking like someone who conservative voters would listen to. When I was in highschool I felt like I should be able to dress how I want and people should get over the prejudices and treat my voice equally. It's not gonna happen, that line of thought is impractical. To get someone like my grandpa to listen, we would need to have a clean looking haircut, decent and neutral clothing and speak articulately.

      If the entire pro-pot movement would just suck it up and present themselves and their arguments in a more central and respectful manner, this movement would be much farther along.

      Also: don't put pot leaves on your signs. Put prison bars and dollar signs, and other symbols which indicate the more damaging problems with these laws. We need people to realize that this isn't about people wanting to get high, it's about people who have friends and families who's lives are destroyed for no reason other than profit, lies and propaganda.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Elmo

      No way not going to do it. I can tell you what the canary in the cage is on this one though. As soon as Healthcare Organizations no longer discriminant against Medicinal Marijuana Patients under their employment and allow their patients to be prescribed medical marijuana while under their care you will see a change. The VA Veterans Administration just announced they will allow their patients to be prescribed Medical Marijuana so it is beginning to shift.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  5. Dan

    If Pat is for legalizing Pot, then we all know one thing:

    THE GOP IS IN DESPERATE TROUBLE!!

    March 8, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • us1776

      Has nothing to do with any particular political party.

      People around the nation both progressives and conservatives are both coming to the same conclusion about marijuana and the war on drugs.

      LEGALIZE and TAX NOW !!

      .

      March 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Rags

      It's a proven fact that the GOP is over their heads in doo-doo and has no understanding of how to get out. I say to them, 'breathe deeply and frequently'.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  6. The Captain

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    March 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • thegadfly

      That is an awesome comment. I particularly like the line, "Watch your tax dollar be used to create crime". I've been saying it for years. I have never been incarcerated, but you appear to have been. I have a masters degree and a successful career, so why, I wonder, do I not feel superior to you? Maybe because I'm not. You, sir, are a poet.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  7. 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 8:09 pm |
  8. scoxx

    Pat Robertson makes a valid argument, and it shows that he has enough of a reasoned mind to sift through the garbage, and think for himself. I commend him for speaking up, knowing that many who follow him will be appalled. We need more talk like this in our country, rather than the majority of the rhetoric that spews hate and divides our great country, from both the right and the left.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  9. Don

    Legal or not, it's gotta be goooood. So, if they legalize it, it BETTER be good or there will still be a (big/bigger) black market.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • us1776

      Do you see anybody selling booze out of the trunk of their car anymore?

      No !! The same will happen when marijuana is legalized, and properly regulated for safety, and taxed just like alcohol.

      .

      March 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  10. hippypoet

    just imagine walking into a corner store to buy a pack...it contains 20 perfectly rolled joints or you have the option of buying a pack of 4-5 blunts ....ohhh i will have wet dreams tonight!

    March 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • fred

      After you read the surgen generals report on the side of the package you will have night mares.
      Oh, don't forget the tax but the adds will be fun to watch getting you stop smoking em

      March 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  11. Dan

    Pat Robertson, should just crawl under a rock and shut the bleep up. Legalize Pot? The man who gave us non-stop family values during the 1980's is doing a 180? The man is a joke to religion, and politics. Just go back to your rocking chair Reverend, you've lost your marbles!

    March 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • mickey1313

      so pot smokeing is unethical? wheres the proof? do you smoke (cigs) or drink booze, because they are way worse for you then pot.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  12. Jeff

    Pat just wants people to tune in. He will pretty much say whatever it takes to get people to watch his old outdated television program.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  13. Foreverwar

    I did a double take looking at this headline, I can not believe he took a sensible stance on this.

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

    Have I just entered the Twilight Zone? Or is this the Bizarro World?

    March 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  15. Thanos

    People should be able to do what they want to their own body as long as they don't hurt others. This argument has worked for years in the abortion business. What's the difference? A lot of people think abortion is murder but it still happens and is legal! Why can we do some things but not others? If people who are gay can be married, why can't we have multiple spouses? Things are evil only until there are enough people who think the other way and since everything is based on the majority that's the way it's going to be.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • saopaco

      I do not like that you are thinking for yourself...something needs to be done about this...

      March 8, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  16. chiarrai

    I'll smoke to that!

    March 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  17. Rationalist

    A tax on legalized marijuana will:

    1. Wipe out the federal deficit
    2. Wipe out the national debt in 10 years
    3. Put the Mexican Drug Cartel out of business overnight
    4. Bring HUGE cost savings to state and federal law enforcement, and thereby to taxpayers
    5. Make a ton of much needed room in prisons

    Do it now! (And this comes from a non-MJ smoker.)

    March 8, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Brad

      You want to take God's good herb and commercialize it, tax it, regulate it. That's just terribly wrong.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • AJL

      Finally somebody with common sense. Bravo!

      March 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Science Prevails

      It won't wipe out the deficit, but it anything would help at this point. I would rather see them decriminalize it federally, or even move it to schedule II or III so doctors can prescribe it for things like chronic pain. Unlike the opiates they currently hand out, this stuff isn't addictive or likely to kill if you make a mistake with it. I would also suggest no federal tax on it. Instead roll back many fed govt programs and let the states take them on under the 10th amendment. The states can then tax it at that level to pay for these new responsibilities.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Dan

      You sound like my Uncle in Massachusetts. If it hadn't made some of you realize, a fairly LARGE number of people who do pot, gravitate towards the harder stuff. I remember that is what happened to two cousins of mine, and neither them are too smart (kills a fair amount of brain cells).

      If you want to stop it, it's very simple, and it will also cure our lingering matter over illegal immigration...either put landmines across our southern border, or simply invade Mexico. The Atlantic and Pacific fleet bombing along the border will put a stop to it once and for all. Get rid of two birds with one stone?

      Or is that against the logic of efficient government???

      March 8, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • hmm

      Dan...that's some "Refer Madness" baloney.
      MJ is not a "gateway drug" and it does NOT kill brain cells.
      Research before you type.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Bob

      Ok, we legalize pot today. And if all of these things to not happen you volunteer you and your entire family will spend the rest of their life in prizon. Think hard(if you can) because you know all of that is a lie.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  18. hippypoet

    this damn thing won't let me post... i wanna post on pot! who wouldn't!

    March 8, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • PantyRaid

      ¡ǝןoɥssɐ ʇıɥs ɟo ǝɔɐǝd noʎ ʇɹɐd ǝıddıɥ buıʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇnoqɐ buıʞoظ ʇsnظ ¡ǝıddıɥ buıʞɔnɟ noʎ uʍop ǝpısdn ʇuɐʍ noʎ buıɥʇʎuɐ ǝʇıɹʍ uɐɔ noʎ

      March 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  19. Independent Mind

    I couldn't help notice how slow people are to post on this article. They must be deep in contemplation : )

    March 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  20. Andrew

    Reading this article makes me really, REALLY depressed that I'm currently on a tolerance break and hence entirely dry.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:53 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.