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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. The Fuzz

    Well said! I hope our political leaders on the local, state and federal levels have the courage you have. Treat it like booze/beer. Sell it to ppl over 21, tax and regulate it.
    We, in the land of the "free" sadly, do have the highest ,and/or, one of the higest, incarceration rates in the world. I believe N. Korea's might be higher.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Martin

      bravo Pat! its a no brainer except those involved in empire building in the phoney war

      March 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Hey stoner, your mom's been asking you to take the garbage out for over 2 weeks! Too stoned to move?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Mike

      We don't just have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world – we have the highest of all the countries that report their prison numbers! North Korea doesn't report their incarceration rates, but I doubt they have as many prisioners as we do – they execute a lot of people.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  2. Loathstheright

    So Pat has some sanity and humanity in him...shocking. Marijuana was the victim of propaganda by the cotton and paper companies back in the 20's. It should have never been illegal in the first place.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • AmazedinFL

      Very good to see this posted. If you ask a lot of people who they think was responsible for heading up the campaign that resulted in pot being illegal, many would guess it was cigarette companies. But the major industry was cotton. With the invention of the cotton gin to separate out seeds, help became a major threat to cotton, given how much hardier/easier to grow it is and how much more durable it is (the reason the military has grown/used hemp for rope during wars...). The cotton industry responded by waging an all-out war against marijuana so that the hemp plant couldn't be legally grown. I hadn't been aware that the paper industry was involved though.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  3. Paul

    Anyone who considers themselves a conservative SHOULD be for legalizing marijuana since the prohibition of marijuana and prosecution of marijuana users involves everything conservatives are against: intrusion into private lives of citizens, over arching government control, increased government spending and waste and it goes completely against the idea that every person has "the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

    March 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • DaveI

      Living in a stupor is pursuing happiness?...No...It's living in a chemically induced hallucinated state...That how you want to spend your life?

      March 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • @youignantdotcom

      "Living in a stupor is pursuing happiness?...No...It's living in a chemically induced hallucinated state...That how you want to spend your life?"

      Alcoholics do the same thing, and kill thousands of people a year doing it. Stop being ignant and dont tell people what they can and cant put in their bodies.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Joey

      I'm a life long conservative and I couldn't agree more. There is nothing conservative about prohibition. It is anti freedom and its bankrupting our nation.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  4. J.W

    We should all write a letter and tell him we agree on this one issue although he is wrong on others. And we should tell him to convince others that are loyal to him that this is true.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Tony

      You're a nut, if you think Christians are going to go along with this individual, whose conscience have been seared by the devil. By accepting the status quo and not by obeying God's word, is a farce.

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

      Many do not agree with him, but he does have a following.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • @youignantdotcom

      Tony have you read Genesis 1:29? "Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."

      Even though I dont believe in your silly religion, this passage clearly goes against your statement.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • AmazedinFL

      Tony, I've actually found that a surprising number of Christians/conservatives do believe in legalization–this is something that I think both sides are actually starting to come together on.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  5. DaveI

    Just thought I'd stop by and see what all the RON PAUL supporters are saying...No doubt jumping up and down with glee and spouting all the useful things that can be done with hemp...Well these crazy old men ain't gonna make it happen...

    P.S. Just what we need....Everybody sitting around getting stoned...Yeah that will help our economy and our security situation...I got a better idea...We find you stoners a big island with fields of M.J...We give you one-way free transport to the island with the caveat that you give up your U.S. citizenship and are forbade from re-entering the U.S.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • J.W

      Wow so not only should people who get caught with marijuana should be jailed, but you think they should be deported?

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

      Sure...Get rid of the garbage population in our country...

      March 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • sbp

      OK, genius, explain to me why "everybody sitting around getting stoned" is worse than "everybody sitting around drunk"? Or are you advocating another Prohibition?

      March 8, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • SATCH

      OK, right after we snd you to that island for all the alcoholics. Your brain is so limited in it's critical and rational thinking, it amazes me.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Loathstheright

      How about we deport all Fascists? That would be much better for the country....M0R0N.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • edwardo

      Most people stop smoking pot when they're in their 20's. It is ridiculous to treat young people like hardened criminals, over a bag of weed. I seriously doubt if everyone's going to start becoming stoners, if it was decriminalized. I know I won't. And, I know my brothers/sisters/kids well enough to believe, they wouldn't either. You're being dramatic, and over-reacting!

      March 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • DaveI

      Sorry to disappoint dope-heads...I gave up booze a long time ago...Reality is much better (And healthier)...

      March 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • ITSME

      Remember that statement the next time you pick up a six pack and some cigarettes. Because anyone that drinks is obviously a drunk. Maybe we should put anyone who drinks alcohol on an island full of Hops and some barrels and let them have a blast!!! can you hear the sarcasm.....

      March 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • DaveI

      What are you dopers gonna do when your mommy won't be availble to wipe your bottom anymore?

      March 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • sbp

      So you gave up booze, big deal. Do you want a cookie?
      How about explaining why you are so tough on pot but not alcohol?

      March 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Mr Smiley

      guarantee you go to a baptist church. here's the difference between a baptist and a pot head...the pot head opens up his mind to the fruits of the earth, while u (the baptist) kill your mind by brainwashing yourself to believe you are the only right person.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • J.W

      What about we deport all the people who are overweight then? What good are a bunch of fat people? Elderly people are not very productive either. Lets find them their own island and deport all of them too.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • DaveI

      Booze is just as bad....But people (most) are idiots...And prohibition didn't work...
      If pot became legal then all the idiots who drink now would just add to their problems and smoke dope as well..

      March 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Juan

      I consider you to be garbage. Can we deport you too!

      March 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • commentguy

      you are a disgrace to the human race

      March 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • BijouandBucky

      Davel, you probably know many people who smoke MJ recreationally, as well as many gay men, but don't know it. They make a population of productive citizens, good neighbors, honest taxpayers, etc. You sound so full of hatred that you would turn your back on your best friend if you found out he took a puff once in a while. That person was GOOD yesterday, but EVIL today. Very shallow of you.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • DaveI

      Sorry Mr Smiley...But thanks for the weak attempt to strereotype...Not particularly religious...Just thinking clearly without any induced mind altering states..

      March 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • timmy

      Davel, I smoke everyday, have a 50+ hour a week job where I get paid $100k per year, drive a BMW M5 and E55 AMG....yeah marijuana makes me real lazy. before spouting off, try researching the topic.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • J.W

      Not everyone who has ever drank is an alcoholic. Not everyone who has ever smoked weed is a pothead.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Brian Holbrook

      @Davel,
      Don't forget to ship out the drinkers, too! And the prescription pill junkies. And the coffee addicts! Then you'll have a pure, clean, country. Just the way the hard-drinking, slave-holding (and screwing), hemp smoking, forefathers intended.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • commentguy

      hey davel why dont we deport idiots like you to an island

      March 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • dan

      smoking pot does not necessarily translate into laziness. I am a registered professional engineer and smoke every day. I know many people in powerful positions (lawyers/judges/district attorneys) that due the same. Me thinks you are a hater.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Davel, great idea ... maybe the can purchase an island in Dubai ... that eventually sinks back into the ocean.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Kellee

      I can tell you are a product of inbreeding.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • AmazedinFL

      What a moron Dave is. Dave, do you have any idea how many professionals (doctors, lawyers, dentists) use pot or used it at one point? Of course not, because you'd prefer to remain ignorant/uneducated and base your conclusions on stereotypes rather than actually getting off of your butt to educate yourself by looking at the statistics around marijuana use. Not to mention the number of very famous, accomplished people who have been quoted as saying that they smoked it. It amazes me how some people base all of their assumptions off of pure ignorance.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  6. Greenspam

    Did Pat Robertson actually say something that made sense? OMG. I can't believe it!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      No. He's just babbling, as usual.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  7. Andrew

    Well I guess 2012 is the end of the world as we know it now. My luck as soon as it is legalized the world will explode lol.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  8. Jorge

    See the picture? Remember all the stuff this guy has said that's so nuts it's funny? Looks like ole' Pat has been hitting the Ganja bigtime again...

    March 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Mr Smiley

      haha mr cheesehead has the biggest perma-grin...yea he's a toker ur right

      March 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 8, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      And when I say things, I mean, in my head.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Sometimes the other end, too.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • General Disorder

      P00p in one hand and pray into the other. See which one fills up first.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • PAW

      Pray for God to give you something else to say.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Loathstheright

      Religion is not healthy for children and other living things.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Um, no

      Yep, makes you a non-thinking sheep

      March 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • edwardo

      Oh, you again.. still spewing your mindless crappola about your invisible, non-existent, sky daddy.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  10. frank pa

    Rather a Pot-o-holic than an Alc-o-holic!!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • us1776

      Marijuana is not addictive. Out of the hundreds of millions who use it daily around the world there has never been even a single overdose death from marijuana.

      .

      March 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Linda

      I agree with Fran. I've never met a mean pothead, but have known some nasty drunks.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Linda

      I agree with Frank. I've never met a mean pothead, but have known some nasty drunks.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • A

      Just because you can't overdose on a substance doesn't mean it isn't addictive. It's very hard to overdose on Valium, but you can sure get hooked on it. Conversely, it's easy to overdose on Tylenol.

      Addiction is related to compulsive use of a substance, not overdose.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • us1776

      A,
      Marijuana is not addictive. There is no physical withdrawal symptoms whatsoever. None !!
      This has been looked at a hundred times.

      .

      March 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Mike

      @us1776 – I disagree, marijuana can be addictive. I know one guy who swears he was addicted to it for a long time and if he had to go a couple days without that would be pretty much all he would think about. The difference from other addictions is that there is no physical dependancy – only a psychological one. It can be addictive, but it is much less severe than other addictions like alcohol or nicotine.

      But I too would much rather deal with a pot head than an alcoholic. Pot = laughing and friendly. Alcohol = ANYTHING (funny, violent, friendly, insane, and anything else you can imagine).

      March 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • us1776

      Mike, marijuana has about the same psychological addicting power as your favorite TV show.
      People form habits like watching a certain show. And they can break that habit.

      .

      March 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • blueeyeskc50

      ummm yes deaths are caused and it is THC poisoning

      March 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  11. Carro,ll Rickard

    Never thought I would agree with Pat Robertson on anything, BUT, our drug habits are creating misery and havoc for a good neighbot. Make no mistake OUR drug using habits are the cause of Mexico's problem where the druggies are killing a few thousand people every year. If we are too weak to quit using the stuff, we can at least make it legal, take responsibiity for our own actions and treat our weak willed addicts. That will save lives in the neighborhood. The war on drugs is no more effective than tne prohibition era war on alcohol, which didn't work either. Al Capone taught us that.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  12. 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 3:36 pm |
  13. Rofous

    After many decades of spending money to eradicate marijuana in the ever-failing War on Drugs, we're waking up. Imagine all of the money that we can save by decriminalizing marijuana, and we also take away the business in Mexico AND get the bad guys off our streets too. For the first time ever, this dude makes sense. He looks like he's happy about it, too. Taco Bell, anyone?

    March 8, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • us1776

      Right after these Doritos.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Oh, right. Save money on the drug war and invest it in rehabilitation centers. You folks are too stoned to see past your noses.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • us1776

      HeavenSent, the war on drugs has cost us over $2.5 TRILLION (yes with a T).
      We could build a zillion rehabilitation and treatment centers for that kind of money.
      We'll save trillions of dollars by ending the totally failed war on drugs.

      .

      March 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  14. scoobypoo

    Cool. Now let's tax the churches.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • A Subgenius

      My religion is the only religion PROUD to pay its taxes!

      http://www.subgenius.com

      (and I agree, tax them!)

      March 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  15. John

    Never thought I would read a rational thought being vocalized from THIS source! He has his head up his ass on the religious stuff, but at least he has removed it long enough to articulate the FACT that the "War on Pot" is an obscene failure!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  16. Mercedes

    I am 100% with Pat Robertson theologically, although I am not a right wing republican. (No Dems or GOP in the Bible, last I looked.) I am entirely pro-life, which means I oppose both the legal infanticide we now practice and I oppose the death penalty, being more along the lines of "he who is without sin cast the first stone."

    Funny, but I have felt for 20 years that pot should be treated like alcohol - regulated, but not criminalized. A mild buzz from pot is a crime, but a full-blown bender from bourbon is not? I'm not a fan of any type of substance abuse, but our current laws are not reasonable. This part of the illegal drug trade - and thousands of killings - would stop if pot were legalized.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  17. Mopery

    I never thought that Pat Robertson would ever realize that you can't legislate morality. It's old news people, something our legislators should have learned from Prohibition but obviously have not, if there is a demand for a product there will always be a supply. America is a nation of drug addicts, just watch an hour of television in prime time and count the number of drug ads. Drugs to make the depressed happy, drugs to ease pain and inflamation, drugs to give you an erection, etc. The big drug companies are afraid of legal marijuana because they don't want cheap, grow anywhere, usable in many ways alternatives to their billion dollar flop research investments.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • timmaahhyy

      lol @ mopery. great name although i never quite understood the crime

      March 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  18. MJ

    I'm a conservative who has never smoked pot but does drink once in a while. I totally agree with this, it should be treated no different than alcohol. Tax it and move on to a real issue.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Let me see. The real issue of broken families. Drug rehab centers. Understaffed drug counselors. Higher counts of DWIs. Backlogging the courts even more. Spiritually dead walking stoned zombies.

      What a way to flush the USA down the toilet.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • J.W

      Backlogging the courts more? How do you figure that? More than likely it will drastically decrease court backlog.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  19. MrHighMighty

    God Bless you Mr Robertson, for seeing the big picture, and for your courage in taking this stand to free the herb.
    Now I will pray that the Spirit leads you to turn from your activism in the politics of man, to focus on learning and teaching the Scriptures and living a life that shows all the gifts of the Grace of the Almighty.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  20. bannister

    Here's my take on the issue-

    God made marijuana. Therefore it should be legal.

    The end.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Mr Smiley

      Here's my take...
      God made you to die so you should die.

      I agree with your conclusion on the issue but your logic is just plain dumb.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:41 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.