From The Washington Post:
Television evangelist Pat Robertson has made inflammatory remarks in recent years that offend gays, Muslims and others, but a recent comment he made on his Christian Broadcasting Network was more notable for whom it pleased: people who want to see marijuana legalized.
“We’re locking up people that take a couple of puffs of marijuana, and the next thing you know they’ve got 10 years,” the controversial pastor said on “The 700 Club” on Dec. 16, in a clip unearthed by bloggers this week. “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, I mean, it’s just, it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people.”
His views on marijuana lit up the Internet on Thursday because they seemingly aligned him with liberal groups that have long complained of the punitive nature of the nation’s drug laws. The comments have been seized on by pro-marijuana groups that cite them as evidence that their message is gaining traction not only in the mainstream but within the religious right.
On Thursday, a CBN spokesman said in an e-mail that Robertson is “unequivocally” against illegal drug use and that he does not support legalizing marijuana.
The nation’s attitude toward marijuana has changed dramatically over the past two decades. In an October Washington Post poll, 43 percent of respondents said they would be in favor of legalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use – up from 22 percent in 1997.
Fifteen states and the District allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes, and there are signs that public consternation is growing over the sometimes severe punishments doled out for minor drug offenses. In Montana last week, a group of potential jurors objected en masse upon learning that a man was arrested on marijuana possession. The uprising led the prosecution to seek a plea deal.
Self-described conservatives remain the most opposed to legalizing marijuana, with 69 percent against such a change in the laws in the Post poll. But there have been recent efforts to convince conservatives that it is in line with their small-government philosophy to consider alternatives to imprisonment for minor drug offenses.
Gary Johnson, a libertarian and former Republican governor of New Mexico, took his pro-legalization message to tea party rallies this summer. Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. (R-Ind.) this month embraced a proposal to reduce sentences for nonviolent offenders, including some drug criminals, and to increase access to drug treatment programs – in the name of government efficiency.