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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. annie s

    Holy Smokes! I agree with Pat Robertson on something!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  2. Mike

    I'm a proud Conservative pothead. I think 1000 little tiny Liberal brains just got BLOWN! =)

    March 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  3. Tony

    This could be an issue that the left and right can work together on, to end the dangerous drug war.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  4. HawaiiGuest

    Is it just me or does he look a little stoned in the picture? Squinty eyes, super huge smile showing as many teeth as possible.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  5. Mike

    Prescription pills KILLED WHITNEY! Willie Nelson will smoke pot every hour of his life and live til he's 100 years old!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  6. NCJim

    The story of a blind squirrel finding a nut comes to mind.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  7. J.W

    It will clear up our courts and our jails, it will allow police to focus on real crime, it will allow it to be used for medicinal reasons, it will reduce crime, it will stop money from being wasted on the drug war, and it will bring in more tax revenue.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  8. @youignantdotcom

    @HeavenSent....you obviously haven't ready Genesis 1:29 recently? Brush up on your bible.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  9. dutspup

    Maybe if it were legallized Hailey Barbour wouldnt have had to pardon murderers because the pot heads arent taking up all the prison beds.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  10. Duane - St. Pete FLA

    smart guy..and I'm a GOP'er....makes sense to me

    March 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  11. jj

    Look out conservatives! Common sense might just find YOU next!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • markus

      Ahhh, I have got it now. Common sense only comes to you after a joint or two.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Mike

      I'm a Conservative and pothead. What exactly are you talking about, mr ignorance?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Elliot

      Coming from Kansas I know lots of smart conservatives that smoke. Liberals generalize conservatives too much, it makes you look ignorant.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  12. Steve

    My paradigm is askew. Does thish mean I have to be against legalization now? Of course not but doing the right thing can sure make for strange bedfellows.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  13. markus

    Hey Pat, let's also put a dispensary next door to you and see if you still like it. The ones around us were run out due to the c-rap that went on.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Elliot

      I live in a town of 2000 people with 4 dispensaries. I don't go to them but they haven't caused one problem at all in our town and they actually bring in a little extra money for our parks. Are you from Ft. Collins or the Western Slope by any chance? I'd like to hear exaclty what problems they caused?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Phattee

      The ones in the Westwood area look like any other mom and pop store.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • markus

      A town of 2000 is a lot different than the Los Angeles basin (Long Beach). Increased crime, robberies of dispensaries, some murders. Lot of bad element around us that cannot be controlled very easily and when they see an easy target, they are going to go for it. We had a "courier" a while back get killed making pot deliveries to dispensaries in the middle of the night. Gee, he was also carrying $500,000 cash with him at the time. Does this sound like legitimate business?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Phattee

      Long Beach – there's your answer.

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

      Legalize it, and you won't have that problem. Now, it's just pseudo legal under certain conditions, and even that is only by state law, and not federal law.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Jimbo

      They got ran out of town because the ignorant masses would rather the stuff be sold behind closed doors by illegal drug dealers than out in the open legally with rules in place. They just couldn't stand the fact that this substance that they have been lied to about their whole lives was being sold at a store. Ignorance is bliss, they don't have to think about it anymore now that the stores are reminding them that half the people around them go home and enjoy a toke.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Markus, I was speaking about Ft. Collins, CO in my previous comment. Way different that Long Beach. I agree with the above poster, it should just be legal instead of half-legal.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      What sort of c-rap was going on?

      March 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  14. Jim and Tammy Faye Baker

    Well, this proves it. Not the idea to decriminalize is wrong, but think for a minute. This is the best evidence that Pat lost his mind a long time ago. For a staunch conservative like him to say this, it is proof he has Alzheimers or something. Logic dictated this as fact decades ago, but when he says it. Yep! He's lost his mind. Too bad he didn't realize it when he was still here decades ago and his position on a couple of other issues. Well better late than never.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  15. Brad

    "...this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded"

    Bravo! Love to see this point brought up, instead of the medicinal angle.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • maddawg

      doesn't the simple word 'conservative' say common sense more than the word liberal....? by all definitions.....!!!

      one of is for waste, spend/spend/spend and welfare.....the others want to conserve, think of the now AND build for the future!

      🙂

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

      I've never met a conservative with any common sense, so that's a tough one to answer...

      March 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • sam stone

      maddawg: i know plenty of religious conservatives who do not fit the fiscal conservative lable

      March 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  16. Orwell seen it before

    “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,”

    Doing acid Pat?
    Not only that. You are a legend in your own mind.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  17. The Dude

    There actually is a functioning brain in Pat's head! For once, we agree!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  18. Bob

    While we're on the subject, lets criminalize Rose Hips.

    I've heard grannies get high on tea cooked up with that stuff. Just ain't right, I tell ya.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  19. chicago7

    It will be fun to hear Bill Maher's jokes around the problem this poses for him. (I kid Bill...)

    March 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  20. Burbank

    Time to end the insanity and legalize it, I agree! They say it's a gateway to other drugs, it's not really. Booze is likely to be more of a gateway to other stuff than pot becaue it lowers inhibitions and interferes with someone's ability to make good judgement calls. Pot, if anything, can make people a little paranoid, so therefore less likely to try something they have heard bad things about.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Elliot

      Exactly.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:34 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.