VIDEO: Televangelist Pat Robertson endorses Colorado marijuana legalization

In an interview with the New York Times this week, 81-year-old televangelist Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and host of the 700 Club, endorsed ballot measures in Colorado and Washington that would legalize marijuana.

Robertson has been talking about this for years but never quite this publicly or forthrightly. His arguments in favor of legalization are simple: The war on drugs has not worked and the legal system seems stacked against young men of color when it comes to drug enforcement.

“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,” he told The New York Times.

In Colorado, a measure will be on the ballot in November that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana legal and regulate it similarly to alcohol.

“We are pleased that Pat Robertson has publicly endorsed Colorado’s initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Mr. Robertson’s statement is especially powerful coming from someone who has been known to make a moral judgment or two in the past,” said campaign leader Mason Tvert in a prepared statement. “But when it comes right down to it, he is saying what we are saying. Specifically, he pointed out that it makes absolutely no sense to allow people to use alcohol, but punish them for using marijuana. He has also decried the massive amount of money wasted on arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning people for marijuana-related offenses. Brick by brick, the Berlin Wall of marijuana prohibition is crumbling. Pat Robertson hit that wall with a big sledgehammer today. We are happy that he has joined the growing and diverse group of individuals backing Amendment 64.”

“It’s completely out of control,” Robertson said in the Times article. “Prisons are being overcrowded with juvenile offenders having to do with drugs. And the penalties, the maximums, some of them could get 10 years for possession of a joint of marijuana. It makes no sense at all.”

Robertson made it clear he was not encouraging people to smoke marijuana but simply noting that prohibition isn’t working and is unfair.

For his part, Mr. Robertson said he was “not encouraging people to use narcotics in any way, shape or form.” But he said he saw little difference between smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, a longstanding argument from far more liberal — and libertarian-minded — leaders.

“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?” he said.

Last week on The 700 Club, Robertson advocated decriminalization, and blamed the drug war on liberal ideology (video below):

We here in America make up 5% of the world’s population, but we make up 25% of jailed prisoners.

Every time the liberals pass a bill — I don’t care what it involves — they stick criminal sanctions on it. They don’t feel there is any way people are going to keep a law unless they can put them in jail.

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.

I just think it’s shocking how many of these young people wind up in prison and they get turned into hardcore criminals because they had a possession of a very small amount of controlled substance. The whole thing is crazy.

We’ve said, “we’re ‘conservative, we’re tough on crime.” That’s baloney. It’s costing us billions and billions of dollars.

We need to scrub the federal code and the state codes and take away these criminal penalties.

Folks, we’ve gotta do something about this. We’ve just got to change the laws. 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.

What is it we’re doing that is different? What we’re doing is turning a bunch of liberals loose writing laws — there’s this punitive spirit, the always want to punish people.

It’s time for change!

More and more prisons, more and more crime. It’s just shocking, especially this business about drug offenses. it’s time we stop locking up people for possession of marijuana. We just can’t do it anymore…You don’t lock ’em up for booze unless they kill somebody on the highway.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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