Pat Robertson is the latest and maybe the most surprising person to come out in support of legalizing marijuana. Last week on his show, The 700 Club
, the signature program on his Christian Broadcast Network, he spoke out passionately against locking people up for possession of marijuana and noted that it was costing us billions of dollars.
Then on Wednesday, in an interview with The New York Times
, Robertson, 81, went even farther by saying that he not only supported legalizing marijuana but that he “absolutely” supports the Colorado and Washington state marijuana legalization ballot initiatives on the 2012 ballot.
“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” 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.”
Robertson argued that legalizing cannabis is a way to bring down soaring incarceration rates and reduce the social and financial costs of prohibition.
“I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up,” he said. “If people can go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of alcohol and drink it at home legally, then why do we say that the use of this other substance is somehow criminal?”
“I love him, man, I really do,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
, a group of current and former law enforcement officers who oppose the drug war. “He’s singing my song.”
“Pat Robertson’s clearly stated and well-reasoned arguments throw a curve ball into the growing debate over legalizing marijuana,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)
. “The millions of people who listen to and respect him are mostly conservatives, Republicans and older Americans—who, according to Gallup’s latest poll, have been the least likely to support legalizing marijuana.
“His cogent arguments, and his willingness to speak out clearly on the issue, will prompt lots of people who have opposed legalization to think again,” Nadelmann said.
|Ethan Nadelmann, DPA: “His cogent arguments, and his willingness to speak out clearly on the issue, will prompt lots of people who have opposed legalization to think again”|
“At least as significant is Pat Robertson’s statement that he ‘absolutely’ supports the marijuana legalization initiatives that will be on the ballot in Colorado and Washington state this November,” Nadelmann said. His endorsement is certainly the most surprising and significant one by a national figure to date—and will surely give the campaigns in each state an important lift.
“Defenders of marijuana prohibition—both Democrats and Republicans—must be wondering if it’s only a matter of time before theirs proves to be a lost cause,” Nadelmann said. “Americans under age 50 overwhelmingly favor legalizing marijuana.
“Some of the most respected elder statesmen in the world—from George Shultz and Paul Volcker in the United States to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and distinguished former presidents in Europe and Latin America—say it’s time to move in that direction,” Nadelmann said. “During the past few weeks, a conservative ex-general who recently was elected president of Guatemala has put the issue firmly on the agendas of Latin American leaders.
“And now, lo and behold, evangelical leader Pat Robertson says he agrees too.”
This isn’t the first time Rev. Robertson has created a stir about cannabis. Back in 2010
, the minister—a longtime fixture in conservative Christian politics—drew attention for calling into question mandatory prison sentences for marijuana-related crimes.
“We’re locking up people that take a couple of puffs of marijuana and the next thing they know they’ve got 10 years,” Robertson said in 2010. “We’ve got to look at what we’re considering crimes and that’s one of them. I’m not exactly for the use of drugs. Don’t get me wrong. But I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot and that kind of thing, it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people.”