(VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.) -- Pat Robertson, the conservative media baron and icon of the religious right, appears to support legalizing -- or at least decriminalizing -- marijuana.
On the Dec. 16th episode of his 700 Club show, Robertson spent much of the episode on faith-based solutions to crime. But his comments about marijuana near the top of the show are gaining some attention. Robertson suggested that politicians make a big campaign issue of wanting to lock up criminals, but that locking people up can be counterproductive.
"We're locking up people that have taken a couple puffs of marijuana and next thing you know they've got 10 years with mandatory sentences," Robertson said. "These judges just say, they throw up their hands and say nothing we can do with these mandatory sentences. We've got to take a look at what we're considering crimes and that's one of 'em."
"I'm...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, that kinda thing it's just, it's costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people. Young people go into prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals. That's not a good thing."
The 700 Club episode in question also explored faith-based prison groups, how much money could be saved by rehabilitating instead of incarcerating nonviolent criminals, and an interview with a man who overcame his addiction to drugs after being left for dead and seeing the devil.
The effort to legalize marijuana has gained steam in recent years as more states have allowed the use of medical marijuana. A proposal to legalize marijuana in California in November failed, but did garner 46 percent of the vote.
Robertson would not be the first conservative to oppose the criminalized drugs, especially on the fuzzy line between conservatism and libertarianism.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., has advocated giving states exclusive rights to control drugs. And his son, Sen.-elect Rand Paul, R-Kent., came under over the summer fire for his lax stance on drugs. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who was in office from 1995-2003, was an avowed advocate of legalizing pot. Finally, the Republican challenger to liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in California supported legalized marijuana. Of course, that was a San Francisco race that probably does not represent much of the country.
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