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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. boyd runnings

    Get it out of your kids hands. Get the dealers out of your schools and neighborhoods. Just like alcohol prohibition it hasn't worked. The Cartels now, just like alco prohib made the mafia, are making way more money than people are wanting to throw at it. Losing the game. reverse the trend and hurt the Cartels where it matters.. MONEY

    March 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • J.W

      The drug cartels, plus all of the gang violence that is caused by dealing drugs illegally. Those problems would be solved if it were legalized.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  2. jscmedia

    Ye Verily, I say unto you brother,

    "Roll Away the Stoned...."

    March 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  3. Daniel in Denver

    "In 2010, Robertson spoke on “The 700 Club” about decriminalizing marijuana but didn’t go so far as to advocate legalizing it."

    Please, anyone. Explain the difference to me? Seriously.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • headline4edu

      You don't go to jail for having it, but you don't get to have it either.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Daniel in Denver

      Thanks, Headline. If I understand you correctly, it's then neither legal nor illegal? That's kinda what I was thinking earlier. Not sure who is the most confusing, politicians or religious types.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • JR

      Basically it means you can't go to jail for it, but you can't go into the store and buy it. However in many states it is "decriminalized" distribution or possesion of large amounts are still illegal, and possession of small amounts can still carry a fine.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Phil

      What other people have said. Decriminalization (where it has occurred) has made pot possession a minor offence (confiscation, small fine). So its not actually legal, but possession for personal use doesn't get you sent to jail either if you get caught.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  4. J.W

    You know what I think?

    March 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • J.W

      I will just have to tell you if no one guesses.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Daniel in Denver

      I dunno – thoughts?

      March 8, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  5. J.W

    I bet a slew of conservatives will blast him over his comments and he will be forced to apologize.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  6. Steve -- the Bona Fide Know-It-All

    Pat-heads and Pot-heads UNITE!!!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • SnafuBob

      Heh pretty clever, I thought it funny.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  7. Ed

    Did hell just freeze over?

    March 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  8. stujordan

    I must be dreaming. No way did Pat say something I agree with.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  9. Jason

    So that more people will be as asinine as Pat Roberts....

    March 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  10. Madtown

    Wow. Never thought I'd see the day where I would agree with him on a social issue. He's right on the money!!!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  11. evensteven

    The first think Robertson has said which I can agree with. Now if we could only get him to smoke some . . .

    March 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Regis990

      By the looks of that picture of Pat...

      March 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  12. Wildone

    It's always been about money. Money for cops, lawyers, prisons and others who are involved in maintaining the war on drugs, not to mention the fact that if the Government can't tax or control something they make it illegal.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  13. gman

    Although I think Pat Robertson is a giant TOOL for the most part, bilking his "true believers" out of millions, I have the unfortunate stance to actually agree with this dude. Locking people up for having a small amount of mary-jane on them is stupid. Your turning someone who is not a criminal (not everyone that puff-puff-pass is a criminal) into a criminal, because they now have a record that will follow them into the real world. And they will find that the types of job they had before is closed to them because of a criminal past.

    The "war on drugs" is a joke. Every couple months some news outlet runs a story of the millions of dollars worth of pot they get, but only after months and months sometimes years of tracking things down. Its a waste of time. besides, once that potential in-road is dismantled, another will pop up....its inevitable that it will happen.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  14. TING

    Holy crap!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  15. jrc

    Many people in highly publicized positions probably would legalize it, but there is some type of pressure to say no for the "common good" boy that got us somewhere fast, just check, I'm still left standing... He might even be Pro Choice due to free will no to say that he would endorse abortions as many folks feel this way, but the folks would call him a hypocrite, so he stands by their word. We are a nation of settlers. We settle instead of achieving with total satisfaction.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  16. Speak out

    It needs to be legalized at the federal level first.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  17. MannyHM

    Preacher Pat Robertson should extend this message to Mexico and other adjacent countries.
    The government should produce, control, distribute, and tax marijuana to compete with illegal drug suppliers.
    Lots of people had died in the name of marijuana.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  18. Richard

    I'm amazed that after all of these years of causing heart ache and confusion among good, God-fearing people this man has finally said something I can agree with. But he's still a horse's patoot.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  19. deb

    I gotta believe that's one of the smartest things this dude has said in years.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  20. Steve

    Amen Brother!!!!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:14 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.