Why Does Pat Robertson Want to Decriminalize Pot?

It's an odd move for a televangelist

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Fundamentalist televangelist Pat Robertson, who as founder of the Christian Coalition has long been a leader of the religious right, has made a shocking call for marijuana to be decriminalized. Robertson explained on the Christian Broadcasting Network, which he also founded, that he came to the position after years of leading prison ministries. Here's the video, the statement, and the reaction.

There's something else we've got to realize. We're lock up people that take a couple of puffs of marijuana. And the next thing you know they've got ten years. They've got mandatory sentences and these judges throw up their hands and say, 'There's nothing we can do, it's a mandatory sentence.' We've got to take a 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. Young people go into prisons, they go in as youths and they come out as hardened criminals. It's not a good thing.

The Reaction

  • Sharp Break With Conservative Orthodoxy  Mediaite's Frances Martel writes, "Robertson rails against conservative politicians who he says run on a 'tough on crime' philosophy that wins votes but is ultimately 'not the answer.'" Martel explains that "for such a hardened conservative to contemplate the idea that it is the prison system creating criminals over these minor crimes- rather than the criminals, as he argues conservatives sometimes think, being born that way- is perhaps the most shocking."
  • Pot Legalization Advocacy Becoming Mainstream  Scott Morgan of the blog Stop The Drug War writes:
The idea that our marijuana laws are all kinds of stupid has taken hold in mainstream political culture to such an extent that anyone who wants to can just come out and say it. What a wonderful feeling that is for anybody who's silently rolled their eyes at our mindless marijuana laws for years, just waiting for the right time to say something about it. Well, that time is here and if a notorious windbag moralizer like Pat Robertson has figured it out, I'll never again be surprised to hear an unlikely voice joining the call for reform.
I think I'm detecting the beginnings of a tectonic shift in attitudes towards the War On Marijuana. A long time friend (in Internet Years) who is deeply religious threw in the towel on pot prohibition about 6 months ago in a private communication to me. I wonder if Pat's 'coming out' will embolden my friend to go public? In any case the last major pocket of resistance to the end of Cannabis Prohibition (those who favor prohibition on religious grounds) is beginning to crumble. The end is nigh.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.