Pat Robertson: Legalize Marijuana

Televangelist, social conservative, and one time Presidential candidate Pat Robertson raised some eyebrows this week when he said that marijuana should be legalized:

Of the many roles Pat Robertson has assumed over his five-decade-long career as an evangelical leader — including presidential candidate and provocative voice of the right wing — his newest guise may perhaps surprise his followers the most: marijuana legalization advocate.

“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Mr. Robertson said in an interview 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.”

Mr. Robertson’s remarks echoed statements he made last week on “The 700 Club,” the signature program of his Christian Broadcasting Network, and other comments he made in 2010. While those earlier remarks were largely dismissed by his followers, Mr. Robertson has now apparently fully embraced the idea of legalizing marijuana, arguing that it is a way to bring down soaring rates of incarceration and reduce the social and financial costs.

“I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up,” he said.

Mr. Robertson’s remarks were hailed by pro-legalization groups, who called them a potentially important endorsement in their efforts to roll back marijuana penalties and prohibitions, which residents of Colorado and Washington will vote on this fall.

“I love him, man, I really do,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of current and former law enforcement officials who oppose the drug war. “He’s singing my song.”

For his part, Mr. Robertson said that he “absolutely” supported the ballot measures, though he would not campaign for them. “I’m not a crusader,” he said.

That comment may invite debate, considering Mr. Robertson’s long career of speaking out — and sometimes in ways that drew harsh criticism — in favor of conservative family values. Recently, he was quoted as saying that victims of tornadoes in the Midwest could have avoided their fate by praying more.

But advocates of overhauling drug laws say Mr. Robertson’s newfound passion on their issue could help sway conservative voters and other religious leaders to their cause.

“Pat Robertson still has an audience of millions of people, and they respect what he has to say,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for more liberal drug laws. “And he’s not backtracking. He’s doubling down.”

I’m actually surprised that anyone is surprised about this. I noted here back in December 2010 that Robertson had made very similar comments on his 700 Club program:

I don’t know that Robertson’s comments will actually move the needle all that much on this issue. Yes, he still has a sizable audience but his influence is far from what it was in the 80s and 90s. Nonetheless, I take this as another reflection of changing attitudes about marijuana legalization over the past several years. Moreover, Robertson is correct in pointing out that the War On (Some) Drugs hasn’t worked. We’ve spent billions of dollars, restricted civil liberties, imprisoned millions of people, and given more power to law enforcement, and we have nothing to show for it.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    It’s easy to demonize those on “the other side” of whatever issue is important on any given day, but that’s what destroys the ability to compromise & find common ground. The best defense against that is to point out and unironically applaud when someone on that “other side” says something you actually agree with. Pat’s position on this appears to be well thought-out, compassionate, and well in-line with Christian values; while there are many other things I disagree with him on, I honestly thank him for his contribution on this issue.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    and we have nothing to show for it

    The prison industry certainly has a lot of $ to show for it. And if it was legalized there might be some serious research on it’s medical benefits which would hurt big pharma.

  3. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Stopped clocks and blind squirrels, you know?

    Indeed, pot should be legalized. In my mind there can be no question about that. It’s the best thing since sliced bread for various cancer patients. It’s a Godsend for AIDS patients. It has other valuable medicinal uses too. It’s an industrial product. You can use it make any grade of paper. It’s an easy source of revenue for cash-strapped state and local governments. Then to put the cherry on top if you legalize it you can take vice squad personnel and send them out to fight real crime.

    At the absolute minimum, from a federalism standpoint, Uncle Sam should get out of the way and allow the individual states to enact their own rules and regulations. If Nevada, Oregon and Washington State want to legalize pot, for example, they should so be permitted. If Mississippi et al. just want to say no, well, that’s their prerogative too. It shouldn’t be a federal question.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    We’ve spent billions of dollars, restricted civil liberties, imprisoned millions of people, and given more power to law enforcement, and we have nothing to show for it.

    Oh c’mon Doug! Colt, S&W, Ruger, and others ALL have made billions off of this war by selling arms to our friends across the border. Boeing made billions on their failed surveillance network. There has been an explosion of jobs for the United Tunnel Diggers of Mexico Union, mules are getting paid better than ever (they even have a legal defense fund nowadays) and best of all…

    We now have the Zetas who have singlehandedly done more than any other organization to slow down the millions of illegals coming across our border thru their “Kidnap a Salvadoran/Guatemalan/Nicaraguan/Honduran Today Program”.

    I get breathless just thinking about it.

  5. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    “Beverage alcohol” – Before Robertson, I’d only heard one other public figure use this phrase: the late John Tower, as he (unsuccessfully) tried to convince the Senate he didn’t have a drinking problem.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ron Beasley: I get a stiffy just thinking about “Prisons for Profits” (a little known nonprofit group in AZ)

  7. James H says:

    It’s a Godsend for AIDS patients. It has other valuable medicinal uses too. It’s an industrial product. You can use it make any grade of paper. It’s an easy source of revenue for cash-strapped state and local governments.

    Can it replace fossil fuels?

  8. sam says:

    “We’ve spent billions of dollars, restricted civil liberties, imprisoned millions of people, and given more power to law enforcement, and we have nothing to show for it.”

    And pretty much turned Mexico into a nation-sized Chicago circa Al Capone.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    It shouldn’t be a federal question.

    Sorry, but you’re 147 years too late on that one…

  10. KariQ says:

    Jokes aside, this is great news. Really, having someone like Pat Robertson out there saying that we should decriminalize marijuana opens up the discussion to a wider audience and gives me some hope that some day soon we can actually start making some changes to this disastrous policy. Every step in the right direction counts.

  11. Linton says:

    First he said it would be alright for a man to divorce his wife if she has Alzheimer’s, now he says pot should be legalized.

    Pat is becoming a real superfreak in his old age. Bow chicka wow wow!

  12. Catfish says:

    A few questions: Do these marijuana cigarettes pose a risk as far as lung cancer goes?
    How is this stuff grown and processed? Like regular tobacco?
    Can it be smoked in a pipe?
    Forgive my ignorance, I am from a different era: our things were 6 packs and Cannonball Chewing Tobacco
    Thanks, Pat. Now we have an answer for the deficit!

  13. I’m a big fan of Pat Robertson. Top 5 reasons for Marijuana to be legalized are as follows:

    1. It has beneficial healing properties for many mental and physical illness.
    2. Save lots of money reducing prison, police and court costs.
    3. Take a large amount of money out of the black markets and put it into the economy.
    4. Tax and license it so people can grow, buy, sell etc.
    5. It will create new industries and jobs.