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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. carol

    Wow! Who would have thought this could ever be true..

    March 8, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  2. carol

    Wow! Who would have thought this could be true!!

    March 8, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  3. Arran Webb

    Who is going to tell the fantastically wealthy gangs of organized criminals and the well employed prison guards that they are going to lose their monopoly on the illegal product and their clients in jails? Laws create business. The criminality of pot creates big off the books business – these dues are going to lobby to keep it illegal. The best government money can buy.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Drew

      Yet Al Capone and others couldn't keep alcohol prohibited even though they were making bank off it.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  4. ChrkeePrde

    He's prolly so hooked on it he can't help but endorse its legalization....

    March 8, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  5. Roger

    This is no different from Gingrich announcing his run for president via twitter, with a spokesman later saying it was Gingrich's way of "hooking up" with young people. The Christian right has in recent years had to find new ways to combat a steadily declining interest in religion with each successive generation of Americans.

    In fact, a few months ago Pat Robertson referred to Ron Paul as "a politician who has gained popularity with young voters." Now more than ever it has become a game of last-ditch-effort survival for the old guard conservative establishment as they attempt to counter the unwanted effects of an unprecedented access to information - information which until recent years had been carefully controlled tucked away from sight by oppressionist groups like the Knights of Columbus and your local neighborhood wingnuts.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Drew

      Wow. What a cynical view. Have you ever thought that maybe Robertson actually believes imprisoning people for marijuana use is wrong?
      Also, polls consistently show that Ron Paul is the most popular candidate among young people by far. And I certainly didn't follow you at the end of your little diatribe with the Knights thing, so I guess I'm just wondering what, exactly, you are arguing.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • Roger

      Yes, Ron Paul is popular with young voters, and that is exactly my point. He supports the legalization of all drugs, and drug legalization is a popular stance among younger voters. Recognizing this fact, Pat Robertson quickly adopted a similar stance. That is, were it not a popular concept among young Christian voters, it's unlikely that Pat Robertson would have so much compassion for marijuana users who end up behind bars.

      Further, Christian groups have for decades been publishing lists of "approved" reading material for young followers of Jesus, with examples including lists of "approved" musicians and so on so forth. Those lists get dispursed throughout networks of chuches across the country, and thus control has been maintained through those and other similar means.

      That's all coming to an end, and to see Pat Robertson embracing something as contradictory to Christianity as marijuana legaliation is a sign that a new and desperate strategy is being adopted.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Drew

      This sounds a lot like a conspiracy to me. Do you have any specific churches, denominations, etc., that put out these "approved" books, musicians?
      I'm a young Christian voter myself. I consider myself libertarian with conservative roots. And I don't see anything contradictory about a Christian supporting marijuana legalization. I realize I'm in the minority among Christians on this issue, but not by much. Remember 50% of the country supports legalization and over 60% claims to be Christians.
      Also, I've never smoked pot in my life.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Drew

      Pat Robertson has also supported marijuana legalization since at least 2010, so I don't think he recently "quickly adopted" this stance.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  6. AutumnskyD

    WOW I can understand the conservative view of abortion and gay marriage even though I don't agree. But this shows that at least we can agree on pot laws which make little sense. Maybe we can move closer and America can heal a bit from the bruising culture wars.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  7. Guard1an

    Perhaps Pat read the polls and is contemplating running for office again?

    5% think America does not have a serious drug abuse problem. Source: Angus-Reid
    10% Approve of Congress. (Lowest Rating in almost 40 years of conducting this poll) Source: Gallop
    11% Approve of Iran. Source: Gallop
    11% Approve of North Korea. Source: Gallop
    14% Approve of Afghanistan. Source: Gallop
    20% Believe in Aliens. Source: Reuters
    41% Of Republicans support making cannabis legal in the U.S. Source: Angus-Reid
    50% Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana Use. Source: Gallop
    55% Avg of Democrat, Republican and Independent. Support the legalization of marijuana. Source: Angus-Reid
    57% Of Men support making cannabis legal in the U.S. Source: Angus-Reid
    61% Of Independents support making cannabis legal in the U.S. Source: Angus-Reid
    63% Of Democrats support making cannabis legal in the U.S. Source: Angus-Reid
    64% Think America has a serious drug abuse problem that affects the whole country. Source: Angus-Reid
    67% Think the "War On Drugs" has been a failure. Source: Angus-Reid

    March 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  8. Lingerie

    What kind of drugs is this fruit cake on now? Lithium 109? This jerk is so far off his rocking chair that he thinks he is God.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • benny

      this guy is such a fool. what world is he living in.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      benny: how is robertson wrong regarding pot?

      March 9, 2012 at 7:41 am |
  9. MsKitty

    On "1000 ways to die"...a lady overdosed on WATER and died!!!...marinate on that one..

    March 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  10. Drew

    I was shocked when I saw this headline. So glad to see someone as conservative as Pat Robertson speak out for the common sense of legalizing, or at least decriminalizing, marijuana. And I'm conservative libertarian myself.

    Also, Ron Paul 2012

    March 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  11. Jeff Lucas

    ok I'm tired. Thank God for pot smoking and God bless Pat Robertson for standing up for the cause of liberty!

    March 8, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • PantyRaid

      ˙buıʎouuɐ buıʞɔnɟ ǝɹ,noʎ 'uɐɯ uo ǝɯoɔ ˙dn ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇnɥs oʇ spǝǝu sɐɔnן ɟɟǝj

      March 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  12. loupgarous

    This is a conservative responding AS a conservative to what's really a simple issue – do Americans have the right to control what goes into their bodies? It sort of stuns me that Pat Robertson is on the legalization bandwagon from the right, but P.J. O'Rourke, William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater also saw the glaring inconsistency of being against big government intruding into the private lives of individuals in every other sphere of life but drugs. If Robertson stays the course, perhaps we can have a Republican nominee in 2016 who can beat the Democrats to pushing for legalization of marijuana, abortion, private choice in medical treatment (and insurance) – and conservatism would return to its libertarian roots. Finally.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Drew

      I'm with you for the most part. However, I think the distinction should be made that libertarians can be pro-life or pro-choice, depending on their recognition of the fetus as a life.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  13. whart0rat

    A Christian fundamentalist has finally said something sensible. The apocalypse must be near.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Jeff Lucas

      I'm a Conservative Evangelical. Somewhere between a reformed baptist and a Pentecostal. I'm a Baptist that believes that the spiritual gifts are still active today.

      I also stood out on the local street corner and asked people to sign the Compassionate Use act of 1996. I have actively voiced my support for pot law reform for over 20 years. I have operated an industrial hemp shop. Reforming pot laws, to me, is a "mission from God" 🙂

      March 8, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Chad

      Certainly finding the line between milk and heroin in terms of legality is subjective.
      One can't just legalize everything so that nothing is against the law, the government has a duty to do what's right for society as a whole.
      I guess it's easy for me to say because my recreational drug (alcohol) is legal, but still, I think it's wrong to legalize marijuana.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Leebo

      Wow....First time I ever heard Pat talk about anything that made sense or truthful or in anyway nonjudgmental...his ratings musat have been down lately or perhaps he is letting his hair down before the end of the world this winter...perhaps feeling guilty?

      March 8, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      chad: why is legalizing marijuana wrong?

      March 9, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  14. sharkfisher

    Hell why not legalize crack ,crank,cocain,and opium and turn this country into a slime pit like the slimey dope heads keep crying for?

    March 8, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Jeff Lucas

      HALF OF ALL THE MONEY WE SPEND FIGHTING THE DRUG WAR (25 BILLION THIS YEAR'S BUDGET) IS DIRECTED AT MARIJUANA.
      NOBODY WANTS TO LEGALIZE COCAINE HEROIN OR METH. MORE THAN HALF OF ALL THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WANT POT LEGALIZED.
      POT IS NOWHERE NEAR DANGEROUS LIKE ALCOHOL, METH, COCAINE, HEROIN OR PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. 4000 YEARS OF MEDICAL HISTORY DOES NOT RECORD ANYONE DYING FROM SMOKING POT, YET EVERY 38 SECONDS AN AMERICAN'S LIFE IS THRASHED BEYOND RECOGNITION BYT THE WAR ON POT SMOKERS.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Drew

      Jeff, there's no reason for the all-caps, but yeah I agree. Marijuana is a far different substance from heroin, cocaine, etc.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • OjDaJuiceMan

      wow bro. hit a joint and tell me if you feel the same way 10 minutes later

      March 8, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Drew

      OjDaJuiceMan, I'll be getting back to you in 10 minutes.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  15. Jeff Lucas

    POT PROHIBITION IS A STUMBLINGBLOCK THAT LEADS DIRECTLY TO AN ANTINOMIAN DEVELOPMENT.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Reason & Logic

      I've only used pot three times in my life and I do not enjoy alcoholic drinks. However, if we legalize pot I envision a new permissibility for people driving while under the influence of pot. Since there would be no criminal penalty for having it in one's possession or for using it, I fear it will be used by drivers just like alcohol is and we have already lost enough lives due to drinking and driving.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Drew

      Reason and Logic,
      Pot use has actually consistently gone down when it has been legalized in various places around the world. In response to your worries about more DUIs, I don't think this number will go up much considering how readily available marijuana is right now. Yes, it would be legal to have in your car, but if you are under the influence and behind the wheel, it would be the same penalty as drinking and driving.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  16. Dave

    They won't legalize it because the marijuana prison complex makes billions off the fact it is illegal and so any go to jail!

    March 8, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  17. Jeff Lucas

    [7] Martin Luther, Protestant Reformer,
    "Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments (since I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils alone; it being evident that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the word of God: I can not and will not recant any thing, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do any thing against the conscience."
    (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church). For a more thorough history, read Luther's Testimony at the Diet of Worms.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  18. Jeff Lucas

    The Biblical account rules out “dualism”. This is the idea that both God and the material universe have eternally existed side by side. Thus, there are two ultimate forces in the universe, God and matter.
    The problem with dualism is that it indicates an eternal conflict between God and the evil aspects of the material universe. Will God ultimately triumph over evil in the universe? We cannot be sure, because both God and evil have apparently always existed side by side. This philosophy would deny both God's ultimate lordship over creation and also that creation came about because of God's will, that it is to be used solely for his purposes, and that it is to glorify him. This viewpoint would also deny that all of the universe was created inherently good (Gen.1:31) and would encourage people to view material reality as somewhat evil in itself, in contrast with a genuine biblical account of a creation that God made to be good an that he rules over for his purposes.
    One recent example of dualism in modern culture is the series of "Star Wars" movies, which postulate the existence of a universal "force" that has both a good and an evil side. There is no concept of one holy and transcendent God who rules over all and will certainly triumph over all. When non-Christians today begin to be aware of a spiritual aspect to the universe, they often become dualists, merely acknowledging that there are good and evil aspects to the supernatural or spiritual world. Most "New Age" religion is dualistic. Of course, Satan is delighted to have people think that there is an evil force in the universe that is perhaps equal to God himself.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • PantyRaid

      report abuse

      March 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Tsk Tsk

      Jeff Lucas,

      Do you have permission from the author of that book to use his words here?

      Plagiarism is a sin, you know. You could at least cite the work and give the man credit, you weasel.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  19. religion is for the sheeple

    how many boys has pat buggered?

    March 8, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Drew

      Come on. Have a little taste or tact.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • zeke

      You really are the "Tool of the Day".

      March 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • religion is for the sheeple

      cmon now!
      it is a fact that the majority of tv evangelicals either rip off people and/or bugger little choir boys!
      fact!

      March 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  20. Jeff Lucas

    1TIMOTHY 4:1 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will desert the faith and occupy themselves with deceiving spirits and demonic teachings, influenced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
    For every creation of God is good and no food is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • religion is for the sheeple

      when the countless priests pounded ur bunghole into oblivion...did they use ky jelly?did they make u read aloud from the bible while they did it?

      March 8, 2012 at 10:40 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.