Former Republican presidential candidate and TV evangelist Pat Robertson’s has flipped on his stand on legalizing marijuana. The straight-laced preacher’s mind-blowing comments were made last Wednesday to the New York Times. It was merely an echo — and amplifying — of previous statements he’s made about how the war on drugs has been unsuccessful. “Marijuana,” he said, “should be treated legally like alcohol; offenders are wrongly locked up with violent criminals.”
Robertson may be correct in his statement that the long fought war on drugs has been a losing battle. But some surveys show evangelicals generally don’t agree with him.
A Pew survey about American views on marijuana legalization from 2010 showed that while 41 percent of Americans overall support it, only 25 percent of white evangelicals do. Forty-two percent of Catholics and mainline Protestants support legalization.
It is clear to any thinking American that the government’s attempt to stop the use of marijuana by imprisoning users and dealers has not worked. Period. When one considers that incarcerating pot users and sellers of the drug costs taxpayers an estimated $125,000 a year, it’s worth reviewing our rules of engagement when it comes to imprisoning this less than violent criminals.
Is there an alternative?
Sure. States and federal lawmakers can drop this less than successful war on drugs and legalize the sale and distribution of marijuana in a manner similar to lifting the ban on liquor and beer sales following the days of prohibition. Pragmatically, taxing and regulating the sale of marijuana by the state would limit the tons of illegal pot flowing in through our southern border. Further, it would cut the high cost of incarcerating these non-violent law breakers at such a high cost. And perhaps it might curtail, not stop, the violence on our border with Mexico.
Opponents to Robertson’s proposal might argue that marijuana is an entry drug and by legalizing it, legal use of the drug might lead users to more powerful drugs. Scientific evidence would support such an argument.
So, is Robertson right? That depends on whether taxpayers are willing to continue to pay for the imprisonment of pot users and dealers at such an extreme price. Further, the war on drugs has failed in that marijuana is more widely used today than when the “war on drugs” fired its first political shot.
Well-known evangelical blogger Brett McCracken, managing editor of Biola Magazine at Biola University, said young evangelicals “laugh at Robertson, as a caricature of an evangelist and wouldn’t see him as a role model, even if their cohort would be expected to be more open to legalizing drugs. That harsh assessment of the evangelist might just derail his efforts of legalize pot.”
There does seem to be a crack in the public’s willingness to continue this costly war. A national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted on March 10-14 that questioned 1,500 adults found that 41 percent of the public thinks the use of marijuana should be made legal, 52 percent do not. In 2008, 35 percent said it should be legal and 57 percent said the use of marijuana should not be legal, according to data from the General Social Survey. Twenty years ago, only 16 percent of the public said the use of marijuana should be legal and 81 percent said it should not be legal.
It seems that society’s stand on legalizing this entry level drug is gaining support. Is that due to the overwhelming failure of the war on drugs or a societal shift toward liberalizing our view of illegal drugs?