Pat Robertson, America's longest-serving eschatological bigot and spiritual leader, took to the airwaves of the 700 Club last week and denounced the war on weed, as well as liberals, all of whom write laws in a "punitive spirit." Putting aside the fact that Robertson has, on occasion, invited God to smite people people of abominable politics and preferences, this time he is making (some) sense:
We here in America make up 5% of the world's population, but we make up 25% of jailed prisoners…
Every time the liberals pass a bill—I don't care what it involves—they stick criminal sanctions on it. They don't feel there is any way people are going to keep a law unless they can put them in jail.
I became sort of a hero of the hippie culture, I guess, when I said I think we ought to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.
I just think it's shocking how many of these young people wind up in prison and they get turned into hardcore criminals because they had a possession of a very small amount of controlled substance. The whole thing is crazy.
We've said, "we're 'conservative, we're tough on crime." That's baloney. It's costing us billions and billions of dollars.
Think of California. California is spending more money on prisons than it spends on schools. There's something wrong about that equation.
We need to scrub the federal code and the state codes and take away these criminal penalties.
Putting people in jail at huge expense to the population is insanity.
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. We have the highest rate of incarceration of any nation on the face of the Earth. That's a shocking statistic.
What is it we're doing that is different? What we're doing is turning a bunch of liberals loose writing laws—there's this punitive spirit, the always want to punish people.
It's time for change!
More and more prisons, more and more crime. It's just shocking, especially this business about drug offenses. It's time we stop locking up people for possession of marijuana. We just can't do it anymore…You don't lock 'em up for booze unless they kill somebody on the highway.
That transcript comes from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Robertson's remarks are heartening, in that they show a change of heart; but of the many, many Americans behind bars for drug-related offenses, few of them are doing hard time simply for possession of pot. Manufacturing with intent to sell and distribution (for pot, at least), and possession of "harder" drugs are now the real life destroyers. Robertson's stance also fails to take into account that while incarceration is the worst thing that can happen to a pot user, it's not the only bad thing that can happen. Excessive fines, a marred permanent record, loss of employment opportunities, and asset forfeiture (for starters) are all negative externalities worth addressing.
Robertson watchers and drug reformers will remember the first time Robertson said something along these lines, back in December of 2010. After the remarks made headlines, his handlers rushed to say that Robertson "did not call for the decriminalization of marijuana. He was advocating that our government revisit the severity of the existing laws."