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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. rosie

    There are more passages in the bible about the evils of money and greed than about gay people, yet Christians seem to think it is ok to be rich. Some folks really need to practice what they READ in their good book. Another thing, the next time someone says to you that they only go by the New Testament, ask them why they go by the Ten Commandments, which is in the Old Testament.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Nah

      That you automatically equate being rich with being greedy and evil is unsurprising.

      Are you typically this dumb, or was it only for this one post?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Jim

      er, uh... hmmm... what??? you're making no sense whatsoever...

      March 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      If you are rich and keep your money you are greedy.. that is what the new testament teaches.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  2. Valerie Terzi

    I'm with Pat Robertson on this. It seems beyond ridiculous that so many people of all ages, many over 50, have to hide and worry about being busted for doing no more than enjoying a glass of wine, which is all a few hits of weed really is comparable to. Can we get over the hypocrisy and make this legal? When the punishment is worse than the so-called "crime," it's time we changed it. Nobody should have to go to jail for something as harmless as marijuana.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  3. ficheye

    Yay!! I can finally agree with Pat Robertson on something... legalize pot and let's get busy making products, including plastics, out of hemp. Do it.... DO IT NOW!!!!!

    March 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  4. Mike

    This guy has flip-flopped all over the place. He must have a sick relative who is using medical cannabis. The Nixon "war on drugs" era is dead and gone. Prescription drugs are the killer today. Murderers get out of prison early due to overcrowding. Prisons are flooded with marijuana arrests that have jailed (some) people for life. The system has some serious flaws that need work.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Bob

      Here is a crazy idea. If something is illegal, don't do it, and you won't go to jail.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  5. Gary

    It is time to legalize marijuana.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  6. Grampa

    So THAT's where some of his goofier ideas have been coming from!

    March 8, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  7. Dan

    I hate it when someone that usually says crazy things say's something that makes sense cause then the thing that makes sense loses credibility. If that makes sense

    March 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  8. Willbur Talks to Horses.

    OK he made the news again. Now he will back off his logical pose, turn and say he was quoted out of context. Or after gathering more information he will change his belief on the subject. This is like the 35th time the republicans have made this movie and it always ends the same. When believing is more important than reasoning nothing they say can be taken seriously.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  9. elvis316

    Well, the US has the highest incarceration rate. Is that because the other countries have death penalty for drug possession?

    March 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Sarcasm?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Bruce

      Nope. It doesn't mean that at all.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  10. slupdawg

    Wow, he actually sounds sensible, for once.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  11. Jim

    yea for Pat.... ok, think about it people... Cannabis (the word Marijuana is a Mexican nickname) is a plant that GROWS OUT OF THE GROUND... 99% of ALL other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and prescription pills are synthesized or in other words... MAN MADE!!! So, the question to you all, including Mr. Pat, is, "Who do you trust more... Man who makes bad drugs or Nature (or God, whichever you believe in) ???

    and yes, i know, there are lethal substances in nature too, so, don't even go there....

    March 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • ToldUso

      So does peyote.... legal too? (Tho I support legalizing pot)

      March 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Jim

      not quite sure what your point is Tolduso, maybe its cuz i haven't had anything to smoke in a while... lol

      March 8, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • jfada

      well I agree about the marijuana not being a bad drug, but...ummm...cocaine, heroin, opium, mescaline, and many other hard drugs all come from a plants as well, so stop using "it's natural" as part of your argument.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  12. Mike

    Got so high, I forgot what I was gonna comment on...

    March 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  13. Duh

    They say marijuana leads to harder drugs. That means you can trade up, right? Is that an upgrade? Funny though, the alleged harder drugs are classified as Schedule II drugs, a lesser concerned FDA schedule. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, in which part of the classification criterion is that there is no approved medical use for marijuana. How can that be when doctors have been prescribing marijuana for at least 15 years, and medicinal use is legal in 15 or so states? Whoever did the Schedule I classification must have been high on some of the lesser (allegedly harder drugs) Schedule II wortwhile drugs like the topical anesthetic cocaine, or the potent antidiarrheal opium, or perhaps they were indulging in the various manmade painkillers like oxycodone, or proper medicinal use of PCP (like Rodney King). Perhaps the drugmakers wanted marijuana classified Schedule I so they can produce all that Schedule II stuff they make uber big bucks on? I'd say the conspiracy between Dow and Dupont came close to suceeding for nearly a full century. Now we're immersed 24/7 in sythetic clothings and plastic furnishings, properly prescribed Schedule II meds like good little sheep, including Schedule III marinol to get us off that highly dangerous Schedule I devil weed mary jane that everyone could grow in their back yards, for free. Who's on drugs here and what is wrong with this picture?

    March 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  14. Chach

    People actually still care what this idiot says?

    March 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  15. humbug

    most sense he's made in 60+ years.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  16. Flop_Flipper

    Wasn't it just a few days ago that Robertson said that people should have prayed those devastating tornadoes away? Methinks Pat Robertson should step away from the bong. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  17. Shel

    The end times must be coming, I actually agree with Pat Robertson on something.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Bruce

      Snookie's due date is December 21, 2012.

      Well played, Mayans. Well played.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  18. Polecat1

    Indeed sir! Pot is not the enemy...it's the State! Maybe less alcohol and more herb would create a less violent society. Before I die, I want to smoke some pot without fearing I'm some kind of menace to society....

    March 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • cbinal

      That's why Indians called it the Peace Pipe.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • cbinal

      And in that same respect, the Indians called Alcohol Fire Water

      March 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  19. RBSG

    What's amazing is the way some Christians like Robertson take certain parts of the bible literally, and dismiss other parts. Galatians 5:19 specifically speaks against drug use (of all kinds). Of course, I'm sure Robertson realizes that non-believers (including myself) are not bound any passages in the bible, but what is interesting is that he would campaign against a secular society on the subject of allowing gays to marry, using passages interpreted literally, yet advocate for the legalization of marijuana, while dismissing what his holy book says about it. Oh wait, it's an economic issue, right? And money trumps everything, especially in the world of televangelism. The man is nothing but a con-artist, selling a drug of a different kind to addicts of a different kind.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Is that why the blood of jesus that you are required to drink is a drug (ie ethanol)???

      March 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Oh really

      Interesting interpretation of Galations 5:19 Would you quote it and expand?

      March 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  20. WachetAuf

    The only explanation that I can come up with is that Jesus came to him in in a vision and directed him what to say. Mr. Robertson does not otherwise have the intellect to reach such a decision by himself. If he were a rational man he would have concluded 50 years ago that such prohibitions cannot succeed. Now, Mr. Robertson, pray for more guidance. How about the rush to jump into the Vietnam War? Mr. Graham (Billy) has already said he was wrong about that. Get on the band wagon. How about Iraq and Afganistan? How about Mr. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy? How about letting a woman with the help and guidance of her family and spiritual advisers make decisions about giving birth? Even though I do agree that abortion may be immoral how about develop some other remedies to address the issue?

    March 8, 2012 at 4:43 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.