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. Suzan

    Isn't this supposed to be a 'free' country?? As long as you're not hurting others why not? Way to go Pat for speaking out for freedom!!!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Elmo

      It is Susan. The real problem is the known issue of maintaining a Republic that is in a constant state of WAR. Laws must be passed to satisfy special interest. Most people will sacrifice a little liberty for a perceived small gain in security. WAR evokes the use of crowd control words like Patriotism. Patriotism means shut up and don't rock the boat during our crisis. Which in itself may not be a bad thing but can be and frequently is abused by individuals who hold high office and have weak values.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  2. Mike.


    Pat Robertson making an unbiased, reasonable and well-considered statement based on facts!?

    This is surely the end of days!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  3. Drinker

    I'm shocked that man and I would agree on anything.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • tekstep1

      I know...

      March 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  4. AndreLinoge

    He's been a closet smoker all these years! I knew it!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  5. atypical

    pigs must be flying!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  6. MS

    I think I must be high...

    March 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  7. Starstuff

    The only intelligent thing this man has ever said.

    Do it!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  8. Primus

    Holy smoke!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Elmo


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

      Nice one. 😉

      March 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • AndreLinoge


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

      Wait a sec. I think I would add Batman to the end of Holy Smoke!

      March 8, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  9. Craig

    I agree with the last paragraph. The problem is that people do drugs and get 10 years. The punishment should be surgical removal of hands and feet. Repeat offenders would lose limbs on up to the hip and shoulder. No jail time. When they told me not to do drugs in 6th grade I got it immediatley. Amazing to me that people still fall into the trap. Make the punishment cheap and effective, not longer. But let the drugs be illegal. Have some morals WITH intelligence. Don't do drugs kids.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • commentguy

      for your sake i hope that was sarcasm

      March 8, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • sam stone

      craig: you are an imbecile.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Elmo

      Craig I hear the Taliban are recruiting. They like your kind of justice.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • latuya83

      let me guess Craig you don't smoke weed you're just a raging alcoholic and a child molesting christian.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  10. John John

    70% of the population thinks it should be illegal -- so quite talking Pat.
    Interesting that all the burned out and casual tokers pop up to agree with that nutcase Robertson. If you have ever been around someone that does pot for any period of time, you know it fries their brain.... unless you are fried too, then you think they are "enlightened". We do not need another legal drug added to the pile of drunken jerks we have to deal with every day, and NO, crime would not go down if we legalized it.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • commentguy

      where do you get your statistics from? fortune cookies? are you stupid? more the half the population wants marijuana legal. and are you serious about crime not going down? tell me how there would be crime if it was legal, do you see cartels selling alcohol? wait you dont? oh maybe you're just stupid. people like you are the reason americans are losing more and more freedom everday. just leave

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

      Your 70% is more like 51% buddy.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • tekstep1

      My wife and I smoke daily, hold very well paying jobs, and hold multiple graduate degrees. Our brains are not fried, nor are we lazy criminals. Come out of your bubble for a while. It may do you some good to obtain a different viewpoint.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • sam stone

      john john....it would be a good alternative to alcohol. and, yes crime would go down.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • viking

      you sir are a first class imbecile. take a puff yourself & you'll know that no ones brains have been fried by a few cannabinoids.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • John nhoJ

      Yes, we all know Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, and James D. Watson were all brain fried. I'm sure you don't know who these fine men are, so I'll wait until you go look them up.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Rodgers12

      I smoke marijuana on occasion and I can guarantee you my brain isn't fried, my GPA can prove that. I'm also almost certain that my intelligence in the field of mathematics, (calculus and differential equations) is far superior to your level of knowledge...if not challenge me.

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

      (Reuters) – Half of Americans now support legalizing marijuana use, a record level, amid growing support for decriminalization that could build pressure to eventually change U.S. laws on the drug, a Gallup poll showed on Monday.

      The poll showed that support was highest among liberals and adults under age 30, with more than 60 percent of respondents in those categories favoring legalization. Support was lowest, at just 31 percent, among Americans over age 65.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • jim

      Reality TV "fires your brain" too. Should watching it be a crime that sends a person to prison?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Elliot

      John doesn't even realize that half the people he interacts with everyday have a toke now and then, he doesn't know because the people don't want to open up to a dbag like John. Funny how some people think they know everything.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Nobody N. Particular

      John, where did you get that statistic of 70% oppose legalization? Please quote your source for such an outrageous claim. Personally I think you are full of it, but I also believe everyone has the right to voice their opinion; but as my grandmother once said, don't speak with authority when you don't have the facts to support it.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Brad

      Right at 50%:


      March 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  11. maf5454

    Ok Pat, what’s your angle on this? You must have some monetary interest in all of this because we all know you don’t smoke and have no interest in helping chemo patients or those with eye problems. Frankly, I wouldn’t believe him if he told me snow was cold, rain was wet and it got dark when the sun went down. I still think he has some angle here!

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

      Way to keep an open mind. I agree with him. I don't smoke or stand to gain anything. You must have a lot of friends being as cynicall as you are.

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

    let em smoke and smoke all day! anyone stupid enough to do that crack should be left to their own demise

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

      No different than drinking whiskey. People slam shots and get stupid, difference whiskey is legal.

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

      cannabis isn't crack. Unless we're talking about green crack, a.k.a. "Green Kush".

      March 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • just me


      March 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • sam stone

      crack? are you talking crack?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  13. Jt_flyer

    This is a very strange time in the US. It's ok to smoke pot but birth control is a sin.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  14. oneSTARman

    Ya Goota Love that Squinty-Eyed Grin

    March 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  15. John

    I agree. However, the Pharmaceutical companies will team up and fight it till the end. They rely on people purchasing Tylenol, Advil, etc...

    March 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • just me


      March 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  16. Dale

    If marijuana is legalized, the people who decide to use it, better not blame the government for its legalization that may lead to addiction and for any crime committed while under the influence of the drug.

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

      It's not addictive though, this has been long established. I'm actually kind of surprised people still think so. As for committing crimes for it...seriously it's not addictive. You're thinking of things along the lines of crack cocaine and heroin.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      I think All the People Using Legal Marijuana – without the need to come in contact with people who also trade in Narcotics and Meth and Drugs that are ALMOST AS ADDICTIVE as other DANGEROUS Drugs like Alcohol and Tobacco – Will Be Jut FINE.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Jack

      And what crimes do people commit after ingesting cannabis? Double dipping? Having a second helping of cole slaw instead of one?

      Please advise.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Ryan

      Seriously? It's not addictive and I doubt anyone is going to commit a pot-fueled crime.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      Dale: Did you just watch Reefer Madness?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • nal

      People that think that ALL tokers will be going on to other drugs are ignorant. 60+ yrs. old. Smoked when I had it. Still do from time to time. Never thought of knocking over a 7-11 to get money to buy more. Never had the desire to go to coke, crack or anything else. Addiction is about not know your own boundries. Look at all the alcholics. What put them over the edge. Tax it to bring in additional $$ – stop meaningless prosecutions and save $$.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Jeremy

      Dale, you obviously have never smoked marijuana and probably don't know a single person who does outside of a pothead cousin. There are no addictive qualities to it. Habitual? Yes. Addictive? No. Scientific studies have even shown it to be LESS harmful to the human body than both cigarettes and alcohol and those are items you can pick up at the store along with a gallon of milk. Educate yourself before you go posting nonsense.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • sam stone

      dale: how many people blame the government for alcohol being legal when they become addicted, or commit crimes?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • marilynn

      dale. i bet you think aspirin can make a girl pregnant huh?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  17. Dan Halen

    What's ironic about this hypocrite is given the chance, he'd lock up gays and lesbians, no doubt!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  18. BostonBruins02110

    Who the heck is Pat Robertson???

    March 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  19. ItSOnLyME

    The end must truly be nigh – I agree with Pat Robertson on something!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • CO

      I agree with you, or we just got high without knowing it.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  20. James Arthur

    Very interesting that Mr. Robertson should make such an observation. Particularly in light of the fact that marijuana blocks the ability of a person to understand or respond to Yahweh's laws. Of course Christianity has provided a similar block to Yahweh's laws so I guess it doesn't matter to him anyway.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • albert

      Do you refer to Jesus as 'Yahshua'? If you use the name 'Jesus', then you need to use 'Jehovah' for Gods name. Either stick with the Hebrew, or stick to the Greek. Just saying...

      March 8, 2012 at 4:55 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.