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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. jkINC

    I suspect that a good portion of the Baby Boomers have at least tried pot during their lives, very common in colleges i the 60's-70's at least. Those that have tried it know that it is similar to alcohol but there are some big differences. Overdose is impossible as far as I know, you can only get so high on the stuff and it levels off. Second it's much easier on the body than alcohol, the only hangover may be a tired feeling rather than sweats, nausea, headaches, dehydration and other digestive problems. Also, most of my friends that smoked lost interest in it over the years and just gave it up. But most of all I've never seen a mean stoner, unlike the numerous mean drunks I've run into over the years. Yes, legalize it. But common Pat, Hippie Culture?

    March 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  2. commentguy

    im always happy to see an article like this but im sick and tired of waiting for some action to be taken. we were promised change and obama said we need to change the marijuana laws. however obama simply laughs off questions about marijuana helping the economy when you can be d@mn sure it would generate a lot of revenue, not only from the medical and recreational sale but from the over 25,000 uses the plant has. i hoping for some change, and soon because all ive seen is a country that the founding fathers would disapprove of, they fought for freedom and now its increasingly being taken away.

    VOTING FOR RON PAUL 2012

    March 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  3. Aaron

    What! Pat Robertson said something I agree with?!!!! Maybe 2012 is the end of the world after all!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  4. Mr Smiley

    EVERYBODY! Davel's got it all figured out. His mind is as pure as God's himself, with no 'mind-altering' states of any kind ever. He never gets angry (mind-altering), sad (mind-altering), happy (mind-altering), or anything but the purest state of mind that never changes. We should all listen to him and take his advice of jumping ship to our pathetic little mind-altering commune.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  5. jack

    he believes a guy came back from the dead and made wine from water...yeah i'd listen to him. LOL P.S....santa is real too

    March 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  6. Dee

    From the mother of a drug addict who self identified marijuana as his gateway drug, any effort to keep this drug out of the hands of individuals is welcome. From a driver who survived when her car (totaled) was pushed across 4 lanes of rush hour traffic by a driver on a marijuana high, I applaud legislation to make this drug hard to get. From a student who regularly pulled the weight of several "smoking" team members, limiting access is fair.

    Pat Robertson has a history of being out of touch. This opinion does not change that history.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • marilynn

      you are seriously out of touch with reality. marijuana is not a gateway drug. this has been scientifically proven. you are a relic of a long campaign by the government to demonize it. i suppose you think it makes you "dance with black folk" and "jump out of windows in a crazed state" as well... please educate yourself

      March 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Mom in MA

      Gateway drug? Translation.. "it's not my fault I started drinking and doing hard drugs.. it was the pot that did it" As for the person who was in the accident you can't possibly compare the amount of death, either by a drunk driver or just alcohol poisoning to ANYTHING caused by pot smoking alone. How many deaths attributed to pot? ... now how about deaths attributed to prescription pill... or booze... or hell.. even cigarettes. Yeah it's all that evil pot that's the problem.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Jerry86

      Yes, that's logical. Lets make cheeseburgers illegal, my neighbor died of a heart attack when he was driving and he used to always eat cheeseburgers. How about we teach people self-control, I think that is more logical than illegalizing everything anyone could possibly hurt themselves with if they use improperly.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Brian Holbrook

      Alcohol is the biggest gateway drug there is. The reason it doesn't get "self-identified" as such by addicts is because society doesn't consider it a drug. Alcohol causes exponentially more auto accidents than marijuana. How do you know your team member's performance was adversely affected by marijuana? Were they smoking it in study group? Lighting up in class? Maybe they were just lazy, or dumb, or maybe they thought you were an annoyingly straight-laced witch and didn't care to work with you.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • james70094

      Obviously, prohibition did not work. That's why those things happened. Prohibition failed with alcohol and it has failed with marijuana. It may be time to look at this from an economic stand point. We could save billions of dollars every year in rduced enforcement and increase revenue at the same time. Look at the finances this country is in. Legislating morality has not worked and will not work. I don't smoke anything and I rarely drink. The fact that these things can be had so easily is proof that the current system is a failure. Make a change. Either legalize it or find some better way of banning it.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • commentguy

      you were probably hit by a drunk driver, you probably drink occasionally, you're clearly brianwashed, and you also must have a pretty weak mind to believe the governments propaganda. and you are also apparently against freedom since you want to limit access. please do this country a favor and leave, this is the land of the free

      March 8, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Elliot

      Dee good luck with legislation making the drug hard to get, isn't that what this article is about? They are trying to make it hard to get but failing misserably and spending billions while failing. You can't make it hard to get, it's not going anywhere. No matter how much you want it to go away and no matter how much you hate the pepole that smoke it, it's here for good. Do you just want to waste billions of the tax payers dollars just to make yourself feel better? Seems like a huge waste, it's like making legislation to keep people from masturbating, it's not going to happen.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Real Deal

      The (few) ill effects can be publicized and the use discouraged, if you want.

      There is no good coming from tying up law enforcement, the court system and the jails with marijuana offenses.

      Legalise it, tax it, and move on to real problems.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • BODE

      hey dee, do me a favor and shut your mouth. your kid is an addict because its in him to be an addict, not b/c he started off with weed. ive smoked going on 12 plus years and never touched any other drug. you could have easily been hit by some schumk teenager texting away on his phone, and its college. lighten up and get over yourself, cry me a river.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Obviously a Stoned Addict

      I'm sorry your drug addict son said marijuana was his gateway drug, but it was not. Been a toker for 11 years now, never in trouble with the law, never moved on to harder things, I have a nice 9-5 job and never once even thought weed ruined my life. What ruined your son's life was probably your overbearing parenting and narrow mindedness. I can't respect anyone who uses marijuana as a scapegoat to their life.

      Only the user is responsible for their decision. The user is the gateway drug, not marijuana itself. If they want to get higher, then they will. They will find it virtually anywhere they look, if they look hard enough. If you are stupid enough to place blame on a plant which has never caused an overdose and death DIRECTLY from marijuana, you may be high yourself.

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

      I can guarantee you that #1, your kid had more issues than just the MJ and #2, the drivers were likely on other substances besides the MJ and the judge went after the one with the largest fines and jail time. If he had been drunk, he would have gotten off with a slap on the wrist and maybe traffic court.

      That is the point of what Mr. Robertson says (and don't think it pleasures me any to admit the man has ANY good point to present)–that the penalty way outweighs the crime for the casual user. And let us not forget that the illegal smuggling of MJ has contributed way too much to crime and death because it IS illegal. Most international cartels would see their business drop by 90% or more if this "dangerous" substance were indeed as legal as a beer.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Nate

      It is not welcome. You don't take away everyone's car because one person drinks and drives, do you? Do not use one example to invalidate an entire situation. You're the type of person that makes this more complex than it needs to be. Your guy made some bad decisions regarding drugs. I have not. Why should I be penalized?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  7. clearfog

    When someone says something good, accept it and thank that person. Save your criticism for another time and another place. Thank you Mr. Robertson.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  8. terence

    WOW!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  9. 23

    this is the only thing this man has ever said that i agree with and i agree 100%

    March 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Robertson, like pot, are sell outs.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Elliot

      Like everyone that sells pot, sells out of it because so many people smoke it?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  10. Ancient Curse

    I've never seen such consensus on the Faith blog message board. We found something we can all agree on! It is truly a miracle.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Just what the world needs ... spiritually dead individuals stoned, doing nothing through life. Robertson is a phony.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Elliot

      Spiritually dead? Come on now, you have no idea what you are talking about. Have you ever taken a toke and toke a stroll through the woods or in the mountains? Spiritually dead is the exact opposite of what happens, you become alive and see things in a whole new light. You appreciate and respect the awesome things god has created more than ever. And even if you don't believe in god you are still over taken by the awesome powers of the earth. You have no idea what you are talking about. The dead to life people you mention would be dead to life with or without pot.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Nate

      Typical judgmental holier-than-thou BS. No use in trying to convince you otherwise I suspect. I know your type. Think you have it all figured out, dontcha? It's (obviously!) impossible to smoke weed and live a productive (and/or spiritual) life. Well thanks for imparting your massive wisdom upon us all.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  11. Fnord

    What is this? Opposite day? It must be the solar flares. Has to be. Either way, awesome.

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

      Yes, he's just as spiritually dead as the non-believers.

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

      Do you even know what spirituallity means? You can be spiritual and not believe in Christ, did you know that?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  12. cworr

    I have never used marijuana nor have any plans to do so, but for the first 150 years of our history as a nation, it was legal and used in nearly 80% of the medicines of the 19th c. George Washington grew it on Mt. Vernon. If some slacker wants to smoke pot in his house, what do I care? Prescription drugs have killed way more people than the "munchies". It's time to let this go and focus on the truly dangerous drugs.

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

      I can see the number of vehicle accidents escalating as I type due to all the stoners behind the wheel.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Elliot

      How many accidents do you hear about now related to marijuana? You have no idea how many people drive stoned. You win the award for the most ignorant comments on this board.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  13. DON

    Yep Pat its one of GODS beautiful plants, used in it's natural form. Good ol mother natures cook book.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  14. S Eisenhower

    What??? I actually agree with Pat Robertson on an issue? This is a first. Thank you Mr Robertson.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  15. edwardo

    Man made booze, God made weed... which one do you trust??

    March 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    God bless you in prayer

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

      Pray for brains !

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

      Belief in dieties is not healthy for anyone especially children. I'm an athesist and a liberal. I believe all drugs should be illegal and I beleive you should be killed if you're caught with them. Robertson is an idiot and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. Kinda sound like a right-winger, don't I?

      March 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  17. A

    He's finally saying something reasonable – must be dementia.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  18. Go Flyers!

    mmmm.....Whitehead!!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  19. Hopeful

    Another influential figure questioning the ridiculously wasteful policies of the "war on drugs." The tide is turning. NORML.org

    March 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  20. Jokesterer

    God finally got around to telling Robertson that prohibition doesn't work.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:48 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.