So, California voters defeat a ballot effort to legalize medical marijuana and now Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and leader of the religious right, is advocating the repeal of criminal penalties for possessing small quantities of pot?
Something seems wrong with this picture, but we've got the video to prove it: On his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) show the other day, Robertson was talking about his long experience in prison ministry and the problem of locking up small-time offenders who then cost taxpayers to feed and house them. Which led to this monologue:
We're locking up people that take a couple of puffs of marijuana and the next thing you know they've got 10 years -- they've got mandatory sentences and these judges, they throw up their hand and say "What can we do? It's mandatory sentences." We've got to take a look at what we're considering crimes, and that's one of 'em. I mean, I'm not exactly for the use of drugs, don't get me wrong. But I just believe criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of just a few ounces of pot, and that kind of thing, I mean it's costing us a fortune, and it's ruining young people. The young people go into prisons, they go in as youths, and they come out as hardened criminals, and it's not a good thing.
The comments naturally drew lots of attention and so quickly drew a response from CBN spokesman Chris Roslan, who insisted that Robertson did not call for the decriminalization of marijuana but rather "was advocating that our government revisit the severity of the existing laws because mandatory drug sentences do harm to many young people who go to prison and come out as hardened criminals. He was also pointing out that these mandatory sentences needlessly cost our government millions of dollars when there are better approaches available."
Still, drug reformers were still celebrating Robertson's remarks -- after they got over the shock -- and are wondering if this augurs a shift in conservative thinking on the war on drugs.
"I suspect that Robertson has begun to realize that the War on Drugs is bad for family values," Ilya Somin writes at The Volokh Conspiracy, a legal blog. "It will take a lot of good works to make up for all the ridiculous and offensive things that Robertson has said over the years. But helping to end the War on Drugs would be a good start.
"As the recent defeat of California's Proposition 19 shows, the opposition of social conservatives is one of the biggest political obstacles to curtailing drug prohibition. Hopefully, more conservatives will come to the same realization as Robertson and, before him, the far more intellectually respectable William F. Buckley."
Pete Guither at DrugWarRant.com dares to hope "that a powerful coalition of Democratic voters, principled conservatives, libertarians . . . and Teapot Partiers" could change the political dynamic. "Not bad."
But maybe not realistic. Robertson just doesn't have that much pull with influential social conservatives anymore, and tends to be viewed as a kindly old uncle who can go on a little too long once he gets the microphone.
Then again, who knows? Maybe he'll now come out for the other great libertarian cause, gay marriage. He'd have the younger generation of evangelicals supporting him on that one.
In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.