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Pat Robertson: 'Treat Marijuana The Way We Treat Beverage Alcohol'

<p>Rev. Pat Robertson.</p>
Clem Britt

Rev. Pat Robertson.

Those in favor of legalizing marijuana have gained an unlikely ally.

In an interview with The New York Times, Pat Robertson, the televangelist behind Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, doubled down on an opinion he had expressed on his show for years now.

"I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol," Robertson told the Times. "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."

Robertson has been saying the same thing since at least 2010. Here he is on his show in December of that year:

"It's costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people," he said, adding that the tough laws are needlessly sending young people to jail. "They go in as youth and come out as hardened criminals."

In his interview with the Times, Robertson, who is known for his controversial statements, backed efforts to decriminalize of marijuana, but said he would not campaign for the cause.

The Times reports that legalization groups welcomed his support:

"'Pat Robertson still has an audience of millions of people, and they respect what he has to say,' said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for more liberal drug laws. 'And he's not backtracking. He's doubling down.'

"Mr. Robertson, 81, said that there had been no single event or moment that caused him to embrace legalization. Instead, his conviction that the nation 'has gone overboard on this concept of being tough on crime' built up over time, he added.

"'It's completely out of control,' Mr. Robertson said. '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 also seems to be keeping up with public opinion. Back in October, Gallup reported that for the first time since they began to ask the question in 1969, half of Americans said the U.S. should legalize pot use.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.