Pat Robertson's spokesman says this is not a call for decriminalizing marijuana. You be the judge.
Robertson had this to say, in a recent airing of "700 Club," his regular Christian Broadcasting Network TV show, in the course of discussing his prison ministry:
There's something else we've gotta recognize. We're locking up people that take a couple of puffs of marijuana, and the next thing you know they've got ten years, but mandatory sentences, and these judges just say, they throw up their hands and say there's nothing we can do, it's mandatory sentences.
We've gotta take a look at what we're considering crimes, and that's one of them. I mean, 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. Young people going to prisons--they go in as youths and they come out as hardened criminals, it's not a good thing.
His comments were first picked up by Raw Story on December 22.
Somehow, marijuana has gotten mainstreamed quite dramatically over the past couple years. First, a Field poll in April 2009 found 56 percent of Californians in support of legalizing marijuana as a budget fix; the next month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that pot legalization should be on the table; then, the Proposition 19 campaign to legalize marijuana in California gained national attention, as polls in the summer and early fall showed it to be competitive.
Proposition 19 failed 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent, but the multimillion-dollar campaign succeeded in at least in putting marijuana in the national news for a few months.
Robertson has given a big Christmas present to legalizers. The mere fact that he said this brings pot further into the cultural mainstream.
Legalizers have accused politicians of being slow to adjust to broad-based opinion trends. Richard Lee, the mastermind of Proposition 19 and the founder of several marijuana businesses in California (including Oaksterdam University, which trains students to grow and sell medical pot legally), has said that politicians are slowly finding out that marijuana isn't a "whipping boy" anymore. With polls going back and forth on Proposition 19 throughout the campaign season, it's tough to tell what people really think about marijuana legalization.
But if Pat Robertson thinks it should be decriminalized...well, I guess we've got to adjust our assumptions about who supports what.