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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. Boot

    So weed causes laziness? Maybe we should ban couches and TV to?

    March 9, 2012 at 4:29 am |
  2. Ken Oberman

    One would have to be on drugs in the first place to believe in fairy tales as fact.

    March 9, 2012 at 3:38 am |
  3. TruthPrevails

    If you want World Peace for a few hours, everyone on the planet needs to get stoned at the same time.

    March 9, 2012 at 3:36 am |
  4. rtbrno65

    It shouldn't be a surprise, Conservatives claim to want the government out of people's lives, and there is nothing in the Bible that says it's wrong to use cannabis.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:23 am |
  5. Alfred

    I never thought, as a devout agnostic, that I could find it in myself to support a Televangelist. But, Pat, anything you do from now on, has a winkle of my support. Bearing that it doesn't violate the ideas set forth by his noodleyness the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:18 am |
    • Flinders, the Butler

      You actually winkle in public ?

      March 9, 2012 at 6:06 am |
  6. Thatguy371

    "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."

    Pat, you just DID campaign for them, and I thank you for it. I have spoken to several elderly people who are for it, and good for them. Sad that it takes most conservative people a lifetime to finally figure it out. And now, I can just see all the bullet headed 'Christian' cops steamin' mad over this. Ha

    March 9, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  7. sonomamama

    WOW! Hooray for Pat! I couldn't agree more. I heard they're getting really cold from the sudden freeze over in hell.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • napaneighbor

      Yes! Let's get this done. There's not even an amendment to the Const.itution to deal with.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • rtbrno65

      Only Nixon can go to China.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:24 am |
  8. Chef Sun

    Never though I'd see the day when I agree with Pat Robertson, but BRAVO! Pat. You are the voice of reason in this matter.

    Chef

    March 9, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • Jack

      He is ***A*** voice of reason in this matter, Chef Sun.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:15 am |
  9. Smako

    Prohibition caused violence. It took the wind out of the mobs sails when they legalized alcohol. The social problems are here to stay, legal or not. Take away the mobs tools and the problems turn social, the big problem will be if they legalize meth. The tweakers will claw each others eyes out when the cash base runs out.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  10. keepcalmanddrinktea

    war on drugs has shifted. where it once used to be about marijuana, today's concern has evolved to synthetic drugs. legalizing is not even the beginning to the end of this dreadful war.
    by legalizing we are only setting or better said, lowering our moral standards.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • Thatguy371

      "lowering our moral standards"

      Ha, that's a laugh. And so tell me, who CREATED marijuana?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • Andrew

      Funny, the Netherlands legalized it, and found that both their hard drug use, as well as their soft drug use (like marijuana) declined. They spent more money on education, they collected taxes, and rather than spending giant sums on jails, they could spend money on voluntary rehabilitation programs as well.

      Keeping marijuana illegal does not help curb usage, and in fact, it's easier for children to gain access to marijuana than it is for them to gain access to alcohol. The reason being is that dealers don't care how old someone is, liquor stores do. Really legalizing has no detrimental effects, except perhaps that we're not legislating morality, so I suppose the only problem is that if we legalize it, you can't force your brand of morality on others.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:11 am |
    • Ken Oberman

      And who created morals?

      March 9, 2012 at 4:13 am |
  11. tintala

    DONT FORGET HEMP TOO! Remember you cannot die from cannabis , but drinking too much water , .. you can. I am so sick of watching people get plastered on alcohol, it causes domestic violence.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • SixDegrees

      And pot causes sloth and indolence. The whole point of drugs is that they have an effect of some sort.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:37 am |
    • Leif

      You are deluding yourself. When you smoke pot, you inhale carcinogens, and you inhale them far more deeply than a smoker of cigarettes does.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:40 am |
  12. Phil Hansen

    I'm not much for Pat Robertson or the 700Club, but this shows that he can think for himself and can see the obvious. Unlike most of the politicians in this country.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Tom Regan

      One minute's clarity of thought does not balance out a lifetime of bullying, insanity and intolerance.

      Even a moron is right every now and then. That doesn't mean he stopped being a moron,

      March 9, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  13. Paul

    Is thier anyone reading this who would modify thier current use of marijuana if it were legal? I've smoked a little, I don't anymore, and don't have desire to if it were made legal. If not, what purpose does it's prohibition serve. If it were legal than it can be taxed and regulated, and hemp could be precessed, prevention programs could focus on truth and not sound like Reefer Madness.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • Doyle Lolligan

      History proves you right. When the prohibition ended, drinking did not go up. The reality is exactly what you hinted at: people choose to do drugs or not based on personal preferences and values, and laws do not really change that. Legalization takes the crime away, as happened when Prohibition was repealed. The cash flow to gangs shuts down, and they wither.

      We are not talking about just pot. To be effective, they all should be legalized the same way as alcohol is, and taxed. A severe burden on the country's budget then becomes a major source of income. Violence and corruption go way down as the production and distribution networks go legitimate, and existing companies like Fedex get more business. That means jobs. Just like the end of prohibition, there is no need for gunmen anymore.

      But the country will not do that, so we will continue to suffer from the effects of counterproductive laws.

      But your core point is indeed correct. The drugs are already available, and people have for the most part already made their decisions. Legalization won't increase use significantly.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • i wonder

      Doyle,

      I think you are correct. What do we, as citizens, have to do to get this done? Does writing to our congresspeople do any good?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:22 am |
  14. jimmy the freak

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  15. Brad76

    If Obama wants to steal the youth vote he should take a few things from Ron Paul's campaign. Such as Marijuana legalization/industry, the youth know what is dangerous and what is simply not, they aren't stupid anymore. There's
    just too many positives to be obtained from legalizing this plant, including a major cash injection into the economy. Like others have said: tax it and reap major profits.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  16. Jeepers

    How much you wanna bet he's got glaucoma and loves the stuff since his doctor prescribed it?

    March 9, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  17. Prodigal Son

    Pat Robertson's 700 Club was a program I tuned into regularly, over 20 years ago. But around the early 90s, Pat began taking a more advant garde approach to televangelism, perhaps to mimic the other charlatans of the time who were gaining popularity. For whatever reason, the man clearly lost his way, and what seemed like much of his sanity. The exodus of long term cast members, was all too similar to the first term of the Bush administration. After awhile, as much as I wanted to see the guy redeem himself, he drifted farther away. His voice simply never carried the ring of truth... "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" ~ John 10:27

    March 9, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • Real Deal

      A shepherd keeps sheep for 2 reasons:

      1. Money
      2. Dinner

      March 9, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Mateo

      Real Deal, I think there is one more reason...

      March 9, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • Q

      @Real Deal and Mateo – Best subthread ever...

      March 9, 2012 at 2:44 am |
    • Andrew

      The guy never had any sanity, this is the most disturbingly sane thing he's ever said because in ANYTHING else he talks about, he utterly ignores research and evidence.

      The evidence says that legalization can help prevent usage (as it would make it harder for kids to get access to, as well as allow us to spend more on rehabilitation as opposed to prisons. It worked for the Netherlands quite well).
      The evidence shows that it prevents crime (cartels would find their business model go under quite quickly if people don't need to buy it on the black market, see end of prohibition era)
      The evidence shows it is less harmful than alcohol in the first place, and ruins lives for those convicted of possession despite their other qualifications (You could have a brilliant person still get passed up for a job because of a drug possession conviction)

      So here we are, Pat Robertson, taking the reasoned, evidenced based, rational position on a well doc-mented harmless substance, and yet, in ANYTHING else, he takes an absurdly faith based position void of evidence.

      "Evolution is a lie", "Obama's a socialist", "gay marriage will destroy America"
      Pick any topic and it's likely that Pat has come on the side void of evidence, and yet, this is the one thing he appears to be able to articulate well.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:19 am |
  18. Guard1an

    In the above article by CNN, the CBN broadcast referenced was aired on March 1, 2012. Some facts covered by the show, that can be found at CBN dot com. The video clip is between time stamps 20:40 to 29:25.

    US has 5% of the worlds total population with 25% of worlds total prisoners
    US has the highest rate of incarceration in entire world
    California spends more money on prisons than on schools
    Only 30% of the US prisoners are considered dangerous to be considered for actual jail time
    The skills learned in prison actually undercut the public's safety, because they interact with dangerous criminals

    Portions of the actual script

    28:47 Pat: "..Terry its time for change.It's time that I applaud these guys"

    28:53 Terry: Well the statistics are pretty clear. I mean something has to be done and ought to be done quickly and it's
    been like this for a long time."

    29:00 Pat: "...Well I mean more and more prisons, more and more crime and and more and .. I mean it's just shocking.

    Especially this business about drug offenses. I mean it's time we stop locking up people for possession of
    M A R I J U A N A. I mean ..you know we just can't do it anymore."

    29:16 Terry: "Well we kind of pick and choose our drugs of choice."

    29:28 Pat: "That's right! You don't lock em up for booze, I mean unless they kill someone on the highway."

    29:23 Terry: "Yeah exactly!"

    29:24 Pat: "Ok"

    March 9, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  19. walnutt

    This we can agree on.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  20. James

    While I support marijuana legalization, I do not support the people who smoke it. I have seen a lot of screwed up people that talk about weed. . . constantly, and it irks me. If you go to any university/academic library, you will see that the majority of marijuana studies conducted in the past 5 years conclude that marijuana is a potentially harmful substance, especially in regards to memory functions, cognitive abilities (both short and long term), and that smoking it can cause harm to the lungs. Don't believe me? Go to any local library, university library, or academic search engine, and you will see what I mean.

    That said, I believe marijuana should be legalized, especially for medical research and treatment purposes. Marijuana has shown to reduce the symptoms of certain neurological disorders, such as tourette syndrome, dystonias, parkinson's, etc. I myself have tourette syndrome, and while I am unwilling to smoke joints to reduce my tics, I am more than willing to see it legalized so that it may help others. I am personally waiting on deep-brain stimulation surgeries.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Daniel

      Yes, and drinking too much water at one time can kill you too.

      March 9, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Larry

      Ive seen a large number of people who are with alcohol the same way youre describing with marijuana, its not any worse than alcohol and certainly not nearly as harmful as cigarettes. I have back problems and would love to be able to have something for pain relief other than advil and tylenol which long term heavy use of can damage your liver and prescription meds that can be addictive and alter your mood. Id go to the doctor for this in a heart beat if it were legalized for medical purposes. Plus the government could make a fortune of of it

      March 9, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • Alfred

      Actually, that's BS. At Harvard, a professor of psychiatry did a study that confirmed all ill side effects of marijuana are reversed after 28 days of not using it. And said that there were NO irreversible side effects.

      It seems Miss Information has got a hold of you. You should tell her to leave and I'll just leave this here:
      http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2001/10.11/marijuana.html

      March 9, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • JOH

      James, I would love to hear where you got your information. The very experiment they used on monkeys consisted of forcing the monkey to smoke close something like couple hundred joints in 20 minutes. No matter how harmless or harmful this smoke content is, that is suffocation. What is the first thing that happens during suffocation? Brain cells die due to lack of oxygen. There's no such thing as mj magically kills your brain cells. That's the stupidest thing I've heard. That's like asking a cop how Bloods and Crips started and the cop will say "over a pair of Jordans."

      Do some real research. If you are in a house that is on fire and there are a lot of smoke, you lose consciousness and your brain cells start to die. There is no chemical or ingredient in the MJ that will harm your brain cells. In fact, studies showed that it slows down Alzheimer's disease. Just because while you're under the intoxication of MJ, you are dull and stupid doesn't mean it's the worst thing in the world. Alcohol does the same exact thing but make you more violent. MJ makes you pacifist. Plus, you can use it to create biofuel using the seeds. Use the stems for making hemp, rope, paper, clothing instead of killing trees when our planet so desperately needs every stump.

      If you smoke as a growing teen or child, of course MJ will do bad things to you like a high risk of schizophrenia. However, moderate usage does NOT do any harm whatsoever... also, there are alternative methods of ingesting THC so that you can feel the high; vaporizing it (safest way to smoke), edibles (edible MJ food actually show NO negative effects on health), THC oil.

      Why do you people never understand this? How many years must we explain the same thing over and over only for you to criticize back with the same old info that was debunked and proven wrong for over decades?

      How many people die a year due to alcohol or alcohol-related incident? How many people in the past 1000 years died due to MJ?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Alfred

      @JOH what is wrong with you? You definitely use the seeds to make cannibutter and brownies!

      1+ cup of seeds in one cup of oil simmered at 195 degrees until extraction is complete.! I'm pretty sure "Cannibis Alchemy" states a 1/4 cup of seeds, but I'm sure they're using high quality seeds, if you know what I mean. And the more the merrier, and sharing is caring 😉

      March 9, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • shannon

      It has actually been found that people who smoke only mj have less of a chance of getting lung cancer than people who never smoked anything. Do your research before you start flapping your gums.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:45 am |
    • Ken Oberman

      Two words:

      amy winehouse

      I hope you all end up just like her.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • Flinders, the Butler

      Oberman is such a nice guy.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:10 am |
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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.