BOULDER, Colo. — Call it a message from above.
Because Pat Robertson’s recent pontifications on decriminalizing marijuana is being viewed like manna from heaven in Colorado. It’s one of two states that will consider legalizing pot in November.
Robertson said this week that the war on drugs is costing too much money, and that people shouldn’t be sent to prison for possession of pot.
He later clarified that he did not, however, support outright legalization.
Nevertheless, the televangelist’s words are seen as “a sign for people of faith and people in the conservative community to speak publicly about this issue,” said Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “It will certainly help many conservatives in Colorado become more comfortable outwardly discussing their support,” he said.
Marijuana is already a big business in Colorado. You know that if you’re a huge fan of the National Geographic Channel and you’ve tuned in to “American Weed,” a 10-part series on the medical marijuana business in Colorado.
State sales taxes from medical marijuana totaled $5 million in 2010-2011, and cities also cash in on the sales. In fact, “pot shops” are pretty much taken for granted in many cities, though some such as Fort Collins have banned the so-called dispensaries.
Advocates of legalization hope that familiarity and the extra cash will convince Coloradans to vote to “regulate marijuana like alcohol” in November.
Tvert noted the campaign is also endorsed by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a former Republican now running for the Libertarian presidential nomination.
A 2006 legalization initiative in Colorado failed, but in a December Public Policy Polling survey, 49 percent of 793 voters asked said they would support legalizing marijuana.
Whatever voter support is out there could potentially be divided. In both Colorado and Washington, there’s disagreement over the emphasis legalization should take — a regulatory approach or a more simple decriminalization with no mention of taxes or government oversight. Competing ballot initiatives are possible in both states.
Of course, even if such ballot measures succeeded, they would face one more major obstacle: Marijuana will still be illegal under federal law.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder), is leading the fight to decriminalize the drug at the federal level, though that effort doesn’t appear to have a lot of traction.
Meanwhile, will Robertson's half measure of support really help the cause? In recent years, the “700 Club” host has come under fire for some, well, flaky statements. He said last August’s East Coast earthquake was a sign from God that “means we're closer to the coming of the Lord.”
Last September, he suggested it was fine for people to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier this year, he said God revealed to him who the next president will be — but he refused to share the secret.
Legalization supporters hope believers still have some faith in Robertson.