Pat Robertson Backs Legal Marijuana

Mar 11, 2012

Reli­gious broad­caster Pat Robert­son has become the light­ning rod for a fresh, national dia­logue over legal mar­i­juana. He says the government’s war on drugs has failed and so mar­i­juana should be legal­ized and treated like alco­hol. “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,” he said last week as host of “The 700 Club” on the Chris­t­ian Broad­cast­ing Net­work based in Vir­ginia Beach, Va. Mar­i­juana advo­cates, not sur­pris­ingly, are applaud­ing the move while antidrug groups are attack­ing Mr. Robertson’s cred­i­bil­ity, say­ing he has made sev­eral “strange remarks” in the past five years about prayer, tor­na­does, and homo­sex­u­als. Robertson’s sta­tus as a high-profile con­ser­v­a­tive, how­ever, makes his remarks sym­bol­i­cally impor­tant and indica­tive of wider shifts, say some aca­d­e­mic observers. “He’s wrong about many things, but the fact that he is some­one who usu­ally rep­re­sents the extreme con­ser­v­a­tive point of view makes the com­ing legal­iza­tion debate more wide open now,” says Robert Mac­Coun a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley School of Law, who fol­lows mar­i­juana laws. Not­ing that Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton have bal­lot mea­sures this fall that would allow peo­ple under 21 to pos­sess a small amount of mar­i­juana and allow for com­mer­cial pot sales, Pro­fes­sor Mac­Coun says the Robert­son com­ment helps break up polar­ized dis­cus­sions. “We can now have a more grown up dis­cus­sion about what are the tools in the tool box – rather than just hyper­la­tives hurled at each side from the extremes,” he says. That could include cur­rent pol­i­tics. “It will be inter­est­ing to see how the tea party and pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates will treat what Robert­son is say­ing,” says Robert Lan­gran, a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Vil­lanova Uni­ver­sity in Philadel­phia. “Depend­ing on what Newt Gin­grich and Rick San­to­rum say and do, this has the poten­tial of cre­at­ing another rift in the Repub­li­can Party.” Not­ing that Amer­ica makes up 5 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion but 25 per­cent of jailed pris­on­ers, Robert­son said: “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.” Antidrug groups take issue with Robertson’s judg­ment. “Clearly he is ill-informed about the drug war,” says Calv­ina Fay, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Drug Free Amer­ica Foun­da­tion. She says in 1978, 58 per­cent of high school seniors had used an illicit drug in the past year, com­pared with 28 per­cent in 1992 – more than a 50 per­cent drop. The num­bers have crept back up to 40 per­cent, a trend she attrib­utes both to the 16 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., which have legal­ized the med­ical use of mar­i­juana, as well as the big push in Cal­i­for­nia last fall to legal­ize recre­ational use through Propo­si­tion 19. But she adds, “We are still well below the 1978 usage rate, hardly a com­plete fail­ure.” For Paul Armen­tano, deputy direc­tor for the National Orga­ni­za­tion for the Reform of Mar­i­juana Laws, the recent trends relate to a big­ger pic­ture. Polls have been shift­ing for three decades, show­ing that vot­ers of all ages and both par­ties sup­port reg­u­lat­ing cannabis like alco­hol, he says. At least 70 per­cent of Amer­i­cans sup­port legal­iz­ing med­ical mar­i­juana, he says. “When a per­son like Pat Robert­son real­izes that the immoral­ity of jail­ing non­vi­o­lent mar­i­juana users, keep­ing med­i­cine away from the sick, and con­tribut­ing to mur­der and may­hem in Latin Amer­ica is far, far worse that the sup­posed immoral­ity of using mar­i­juana, we have reached a pos­i­tive turn­ing point in the debate,” adds Mor­gan Fox of the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project in an e-mail. “We are start­ing to see more people’s moral judg­ments align­ing them­selves with the real­i­ties of mar­i­juana pro­hi­bi­tion.” Crit­ics, how­ever, worry that Robertson’s com­ments only hurt antidrug efforts. “If you work and live in the world of addic­tion, a world where you have your sleeves rolled up and are deal­ing with the true impact that drugs have on soci­ety, you just may have some­thing to say to peo­ple like Pat Robert­son, who so cav­a­lierly come out with a state­ment like this,” says Richard Taite, founder of Cliff­side Mal­ibu, an addic­tion treat­ment cen­ter, in an e-mail. Adds Robert DuPont, pres­i­dent of the Insti­tute for Behav­ior and Health: “I think he’s act­ing out of his sense of com­pas­sion and thinks he is being rea­son­able, but that he is drink­ing the Kool-Aid of the pro-marijuana forces.” Recently, Robert­son said that God could have stopped the tor­na­does that swept the Mid­west if more peo­ple had been pray­ing. He also said in Decem­ber that homo­sex­ual peo­ple can “un-acquire” the lifestyle. Source: Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor (US) Author: Daniel B. Wood, Staff Writer Pub­lished: March 9, 2012 Copy­right: 2012 The Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Pub­lish­ing Soci­ety Con­tact: letters@​csmonitor.​com Web­site: http://​www​.csmon​i​tor​.com/

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Pat Robert­son Backs Legal Marijuana

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