Why Pat Robertson’s pot plan is a (bong) pipe dream

Pat Robertson should stick to television evangelism.  His recent pitch to legalize marijuana and make it as available as alcoholic … Continued

Pat Robertson should stick to television evangelism.  His recent pitch to legalize marijuana and make it as available as alcoholic beverages in order to bring down incarceration rates in the United States is other worldly.  Contrary to Robertson’s belief that legalizing marijuana will reduce our nation’s incarceration rates, the fact is that only 2 percent of all inmates are incarcerated for marijuana possession as their controlling or only offense.

 Indeed, legalizing marijuana will likely increase criminal activity. Some two-thirds of incarcerated felons (1.5 million) meet the medical criteria for addiction and marijuana is commonly one of the first steps on the road to other drug addiction.

Most violent felonies, such as murder, rape and aggravated assault, occur when the perpetrator is high or drunk, and the lion’s share of property crime involves people seeking money to buy drugs.  And the legal drug alcohol that Robertson wants marijuana to be treated like is implicated in more violent crime than any other substance.

 The notion that taxing sales of marijuana will provide a windfall for our public coffers is another (bong) pipe dream. For every $1 of taxes on tobacco and alcohol, our nation incurs $9 in state and federal health-care, criminal justice and social-service costs. These costs will skyrocket if legalization becomes the norm, increasing the drain on our public coffers.

As with cigarettes, we know a lot more about marijuana today than we did a generation ago.  Today’s marijuana is no harmless herb: it is 10 times more potent than the marijuana of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.  Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, says, “There is no question marijuana can be addictive; that argument is over. The most important thing right now is to understand the vulnerability of young, developing brains to these increased concentrations of cannabis.” 

I can’t understand why an evangelical leader like the Rev. Robertson, who claims to be so devoted to protecting the young in our materialistic, instant-gratification, sexually-charged modern society, would want to legalize a third drug like marijuana, when we have shown such little ability to keep our two legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol, out of the hands of our children and teens.

 Nine out of 10 Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18.  Forty-six percent of all high school students currently use addictive substances and a third of them meet the medical criteria for addiction.  I can’t believe that Rev. Robertson wants to increase that proportion, but that’s exactly what his suggestion would do.

In World War II we used to say, “ Loose lips sink ships.”  In debates about the war on drugs, loose lips can sink children and teens. 

Parents and teachers, clergy, and everyone involved in a child’s life should understand that marijuana is a risky and addictive drug with serious health and social consequences. Rev.Robertson, before you speak again on this subject please remember this: Drugs are not dangerous because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are dangerous.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr., is the founder and chairman emeritus of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
He was secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare during the Carter administration and chief domestic policy aide to President Lyndon Johnson.


    I wonder how many martinis Califano knocked back before writing this?

  • ccnl1

    From the Land of Loading More and More Comments:

    As we the people, i.e. the federal government, have decided how things are to be done when it comes to regulating drugs:

    “Marijuana-based drug Sativex may get FDA approval ?

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    SAN FRANCISCO – A quarter-century after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first prescription drugs based on the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, additional medicines derived from or inspired by the cannabis plant itself could soon be making their way to pharmacy shelves, according to drug companies, small biotech firms and university scientists.”

    A British company, GW Pharma, is in advanced clinical trials for the world’s first pharmaceutical developed from raw marijuana instead of synthetic equivalents- a mouth spray it hopes to market in the U.S. as a treatment for cancer pain. And it hopes to see FDA approval by the end of 2013.”

  • john_e_haag

    Drugs don’t ruin people’s lives. People ruin their own lives.

    If people do bad things because of drugs then there are laws against those things.

    End the war on drugs. It’s been a complete waste of money and we already lost.

  • randito3001

    “Drugs are not dangerous because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are dangerous.”

    Way to contradict your own research. In your other report you cite the “supremacy of alcohol” as the causal factor in the most crimes. Yet you ignore this in your above statement….noting alcohol’s dangerous side affects…why isn’t it illegal? What prompted you to write this noting another of your stats that keeping marijuana illegal still results in 1 in 4 kids having direct access to it….very inconsistent with your comments here.

  • cnagrath

    Califano has made excellent points and clearly and articulately states his case as to why the move towards legalization of marijuana is dangerous for young people and will also come at a cost to society. To the writer who says the opinion is expressed by someone who has never smoked — that logic is flawed — one doesn’t have to shoot heroin to know and speak of the dangers or drink Drano to know it’s lethal. It’s clear that weed is a gateway drug to more potent and addictive substances, not to mention the health risks of prolonged marijuana use. It’s refreshing to hear an intelligent, well-informed voice of reason in this debate.

  • permagrin

    “Forty-six percent of all high school students currently use addictive substances and a third of them meet the medical criteria for addiction. I can’t believe that Rev. Robertson wants to increase that proportion, but that’s exactly what his suggestion would do.”

    Just a few more dollars and we’ll win this war. Pinky promise.

  • humanaction

    So marijuana is addictive? Hmmm. Why the lies? Bottom line, let’s discuss freedom, you know, because we supposedly live in the land of the free. The key ingredient to freedom is property rights. Property rights are so vital, without them, freedom is logically impossible. So when we can’t put something into our own bodies (our most valuable property), then we aren’t free. Why does anyone listen to these idiots in DC anymore? Maybe nobody will vote this year and they will just all go away. They are all about power and absolutely nothing about helping ‘the kids.’

  • randito3001

    “Drugs are not dangerous because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are dangerous.”

    Why don’t you contradict your own research a little more. Your other report shows the “supremacy of alcohol” in its inviolvment in crimes. So if that drug is so dangerous…why isnt it illegal as per your above statement? Why did you write this reaction?

  • Trizole

    It makes sense that Joseph Califano served under Lyndon Banes Johnson, because his arguments are right out of the early 1960s. I’m eagerly awaiting his follow-up piece about how rap music is ruining today’s youth culture, and how edgy new shows like ‘St. Elsewhere’ are presenting an amoral universe adverse to our Christian culture.

    What I’m saying is, if you’re so old that you think ‘pipe dream’ is such an obscure double entendre that you need to put in a parenthetical (bong) into your title, you probably shouldn’t be talking about stuff you haven’t understood for fifty years.

  • kamakiri001

    Sounds to me like Joseph Califano wants to continue to subsidize the stratospheric profits of transnational organized crime:

    “If you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel.”
    -Economist Milton Friedman

    The only reason that the failed drug war continues is because its primary purpose is to eliminate domestic competition in the U.S. so that the foreign drug cartels are able to operate monopolies with as few potential competitors as possible; once the profits are concentrated into fewer hands, then they can be laundered overseas before they are deposited/invested as legitimate funds on Wall Street (which subsequently recycles them into Washington to buy favors and/or elections with).

    Of course while all this is going on, then little kids wind up getting dissolved in vats of acid inside Mexico or disemboweled women wind up getting hung by a rope from bridges in Monterrey. However, you won’t hear any of that ‘immaterial’ stuff from the likes of Califano though because innocent casualties like this are always expected in any war (ineffective as it may be).

    When the drug war starts killing more people than the drugs themselves, then what does that tell you?

  • jasonjkeyes

    Typical Drug Warrior: nothing but lies.

  • gorillasnot8111

    this story is nonsense and a waste of time. marijuana is no more addictive than hot fudge sundeas and pedicures. and the gateway theory is bogus. research shows serious drug users used other drugs before cannabis AND alcohol. beacause of marijuana being illegal we now have real problems with the fake spice. you have no faith in god if you are just trying to police everyone else.

  • GoodnessKnows

    Sorry I wasted my time on this article. This guy hasn’t moved his ideas forward in 50 years. Shame to waste ink and paper on him.

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.