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Pat Robertson does not speak for all Christians

Nelson Spear

Nelson Spear

I read with dismay the recent news that Pat Robertson has endorsed the legalization of marijuana.

Being a Christian and a former state and federal drug prosecutor, I take issue with Robertson’s stance on the legalization of marijuana. I disagree with Robertson that the war on drugs costs too much money.

While no war should be taken on without considering the costs of that war, we must consider what is at stake if we do not fight the war on drugs. During my experience as a prosecutor, I have not encountered anyone whose success in life was enhanced by the use of marijuana or any other recreational drug. On the other hand, I have encountered hundreds whose lives were decimated by the use of marijuana.

Mr. Robertson has fought bravely for many years for the hearts and lives of the families of America. Perhaps at age 81 he is too fatigued by the battle to see that the battle has not been lost but is still ongoing, and that it is worth continuing the fight.

Mr. Robertson, if you are tired of fighting on behalf of our children, our families and our country, hand someone else your sword and let them carry on the battle to the enemy!

Spear, who now lives in Midland, Texas, holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from S.M.U. and a law degree from Washburn University School of Law. His career includes 12 years as a prosecuting attorney and serving as a full-time commissioner on the New Mexico Gaming Control Board. Currently, Nelson co-operates a family owned oil and gas business with his brother.

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10 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. All,
    Thank you for the comments to my article.

     
    My original commentary was intended to be a non-secular commentary regarding Pat Robertson’s opinions on the legalization of marijuana.  Almost all of the responsive comments to the article focused on the secular ramifications of legalization of marijuana.  In order to address most of the comments, I have decided to draft non-secular and secular responses.  I hope that you will review them and reply as appropriate.

    Non-Secular Response:

    Gen 1:29-30
    29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.
     
    The above quote from Genesis seems to be the favorite (and only) Scripture for those endorsing the legalization of marijuana.  Not all of the plant life that now exists is intended to be eaten.  Even fewer are meant to be smoked.  Tried any hemlock lately?  And please ask the ranchers about what the mesquite plants are doing to their cattle.  Ranchers are desperately trying to save their cattle from mesquite poisoning. 
    I also point out that there is Scripture that encourages all Christians to be obedient to the lawful authority (See Romans 13:1-2).  If a Christian does not like a law, they should lobby to have it changed. 

    Secular Response:

    It seems that the major criticism of my position against the legalization of marijuana centers on a person’s individual rights to freely do with their own body what they want.  Some libertarians live in a dream world where they fail to see that an individual’s actions have no impact on anyone but them themselves.  However, our society is so highly interconnected, that one’s “individual” choice almost always affects someone else’s “individual” choice.  For example, the shoplifter who chooses to steal a watch instead of paying for it affects not only himself but all of the rest of the customers who pay for that watch in the form of higher prices because the shoplifter made a personal choice.  Likewise, an individual’s choice to smoke marijuana will affect others and their choice not to smoke marijuana.

    During my 12 years as a prosecutor, I found that continued enforcement of the drug laws protected the innocent from those who chose to violate the marijuana possession law.  On more than one occasion, I can remember a prosecution of a defendant whose use of marijuana was a part of a much larger crime than the simple possession of marijuana.  In most of those cases, the defense was the one who argued that the use of the marijuana resulted in diminished judgment of the marijuana user that resulted in a crime against an innocent.

    Simple marijuana possession is already decriminalized.  During all of my years as a prosecutor, I cannot remember one person who spent any time in custody for the sole offense of possessing marijuana under one ounce.  In the Fifth Judicial District, the usual punishment is about the same as it was 20 years ago – around $75 plus court costs.  This is about the same punishment for a high end speeding ticket. 

    Driving impaired (whether the impairment comes from alcohol, cough syrup or marijuana) is still impaired driving.  While nicotine is highly addictive, it does not impair one to operate vehicles.  While alcohol does impair one’s ability to operate vehicles, alcohol’s intoxication effects are easily measured in the field and at a lab.  Marijuana is an intoxicant.  In smaller doses, it is a sedative.  In higher doses, it causes intense anxiety.  If marijuana is legalized, even more people are going to use it while driving which means more impaired driving which means more accidents as a result of marijuana use.  Currently, when there are accidents, the investigating officer will investigate to see if there were any impairment issues that contributed to the accident.  The officer’s job of investigating any accident is made difficult if marijuana is suspected to be a factor because it is impossible to gauge marijuana intoxication levels in the field or in the lab.

    Another criticism of my position against the legalization of marijuana centers on the damage to the innocent due to the war between the drug cartels.  I am called the bad guy for being a former marijuana prosecutor and opponent to marijuana legalization.  I will respond to that criticism with this question:  If you know that the product that you are buying (whether it is marijuana or diamonds) is causing the death of innocents, who is the bad guy? Nelson Spear
    Midland, Texas
     

     

  2. I very strongly suggest that you read the entire interview.
    http://www.alternet.org/story/154497/%27This_Debate_Will_No_Longer_be_Suppressed%27%3A_Legalizing_Drugs_Breaks_Into_the_Mainstream/?page=1 
    ” But they need—the U.S. government needs to be worried—well, let’s say, it needs to be worried that somebody new might step up in the way that President Santos and President Pérez Molina have in Guatemala and say, “Enough is enough. All this rhetoric, Mr. Vice President, about winning the war against the narcos, where is the evidence that you can win that? In fact, where is the evidence that any militaristic, criminal justice crackdown strategy can defeat what is essentially a global commodities market?” Because that’s what we’re talking about. ”
    ETHAN NADELMANN: Well, they can see that President Calderón is having serious qualms about the strategy. I mean, you quoted before that he was in the United States saying if the U.S. cannot reduce its demand, we have to look at market alternatives to reduce the negative consequences, effectively, of the failed prohibitionist policy. There was a Central American gathering called the Tuxtla gathering, Tuxtla Declaration, in December, where President Calderón and others made the same sort of statement. So they see that Calderón is, you know, fighting this war on drugs. They see that it has not, by and large, been successful. They also see that his two predecessors—President Fox is now out there openly calling for the legalization of drugs, and his predecessor, President Zedillo, has joined with the former presidents of Brazil and Colombia, Cardoso and Gaviria, as part of these global commissions to call for fundamentally different drug policies. So I think what they’re trying to do is lock in whoever the next Mexican president is.”

  3. Mr. Robertson is probably using mota to ease his painful joints in his old age.  He may be having trouble eating and the marijuana is helping his viejito appetite as well.  I hope and pray for legalization before I get too old.  I can’t stand being out cold and dysfunctional from pharmaceuticals or alcohol that take a hard toll on the liver.  I want to be a viejita out in the garden digging dirt and soaking up some sun gimping around on my painful joints but, enjoying my waning days with a little toke.  For that, the narrow minded and sadistic person with blinders who wrote this article would throw a viejita in prison?  Some Christian.
    Nelson Spear, you have bought into the worst kind of evil and I will pray that you will come to see the utter Satanic chaos, misery and destruction you espouse.   

  4. Sorry everyone. I wasn’t getting notification for the last couple of days of pending comments. Just published lots that were waiting! Comment away!

  5.      Mr.Spear should bother to compare the “hundreds” of lives decimated he is familiar with to the hundreds of thousands of lives decimated by the marijuana laws. Add to that the slaughter of innocents in Mexico because the illegal status of marijuana in our country does nothing to reduce the use, only to drive up the costs and, in turn, result in the exact situation we experienced with making liquor illegal. Scant scientific evidence exists that can demonstrate an increased incidence of the “gateway” phenomenon of marijuana use in the context of legality. People who graduate from using marijuana to hard drugs will do so regardless of the legality of the drug.  The for-profit prison industry, politicians like Mr.Spear and those of a religious ilk tend to be the ones supporting the current laws.  This is an excellent example of what it can cost a society like ours when religious thought trumps secular reason in policy matters. Americans now enjoy the status of imprisoning our own citizens at the highest per-capita rate in the world. In the world. Even the Chinese communists have a lower rate. The costs to our society are far more than Mr.Spear would lead us to believe. And, since Mr.Spear uses his experience with drug users to inform his opinion I’d ask readers to consider which culture or society which currently informs it’s public policy with religious views ,as Mr. Spear would have us do, is the one we want to emulate?? Iran? Pakistan? Afghanistan? We will be a more secure, more stable and more free society when we learn to turn away the unreasoned religious thought of folks like Mr. Spear in favor of secular, reasoned and pragmatic public policy.

  6. The battle to keep our borders safe is pretty expensive too.  Should we just give up the fight; let go of the principle?  It seems better to me to find the places where the battle isn’t working, fix it.  Don’t quit.  If the issue is worth fighting for at all, it’s worth not giving up. 

  7. Certainly Pat doesn’t speak for all Christians.  I’m a Christian and the only person that speak for me is me (right or wrong).  Still, I was wondering how long it would take for people to disavow the most reasoned and rational position Pat Robertson has taken in his life (not to mention something that not’s “status quo for peeps, giving me a greater respect for the man). 

    “… as a prosecutor, I have not encountered anyone whose success in life was enhanced by the use of marijuana or any other recreational drug.”

    Just how far do we take this idiotic rationale?  I could say the same about McDonalds.  Do we criminalize those who eat there?  Are we calling for a return of prohibition and illegalization/criminalization of tobacco – you’d be the pinnacle of hypocrisy if you answer “no” to that one since they’re far more dangerous and damaging.

    Granted, I have mild libertarian leanings, believe strongly in freedom and liberty, and don’t want prosecutors in my bedroom.  I also have no hidden desire to jail all the poor and mostly brown people I can find.  But still, imagine a world without drug cartels.

    “…hand someone else your sword and let them carry on the battle to the enemy!”

    What’s the battle and who is the enemy?  I’m not clear, but I think a glance in the mirror could be telling.  Sadly, this is tougher than creating peace in the middle east.  Why?  Because you have to overcome the special interests of organized crime AND law enforcement (as reperesented here) at the same time, not to mention industry (the prison, pharmaceutical, and related industries who profit enormously from the jailing of our neighbors).  Talk about a trifecta from hell!  Imprisoning our innocent non-violent people while raising revenue for criminals is only economic development for those in “the game”, but its otherwise an unconscionable way to treat our neigbors and a huge drag on the productive economy.    

  8. Nothing that Mr. Spear says here really supports his position in any way. Not to demean Mr. Spear’s argument on its face, but emotionally wagging his finger at a particular Christian fundamentalist TV personality doesn’t convince me either to support or reject Rev. Robertson’s views on this.
    Instead of resorting to emotional appeals, our discussion on our prosecution of drug users should focus on the EFFICIENCY of our policies, not the bizarre straw man argument that drugs improve people’s lives. From a prosecutor, I would expect something a little more intellectually-stimulating than that. Perhaps if Mr. Spear has addressed the large numbers of law enforcement personnel and prosecutors who have come out in favor of some sort of legalization (including many on the right), we may have something, particularly for those of us, myself foremost among them, who don’t take a serial hypocrite like Rev. Robertson seriously on any issue. Paz!

  9. Whenever I hear Pat Robertson’s name being invoked, it’s usually because he said some ridiculously offensive thing, and people are trying to distance themselves from his nonsense. So it’s weird that this one time in recent memory where he actually said something intelligible that people would still try to distance themselves from him.

    we must consider what is at stake if we do not fight the war on drugs
    The first issue here is that Mr. Robertson’s comments have no bearing whatsoever on any drugs besides marijuana, so he isn’t saying to not fight the war on drugs. So one has to reframe Mr. Spear’s comment: what is at stake if we do not fight a war on marijuana users? Mr. Spear gives us this as the rationale:

    I have not encountered anyone whose success in life was enhanced by the use of marijuana…I have encountered hundreds whose lives were decimated by the use of marijuana
    I think that everyone reading this has met people whose lives were decimated by the use of alcohol and tobacco. Ergo, by Mr. Spear’s logic, they should be illegalized.

    Anyway, that’s the rationale given. If that’s all that the war on marijuana users proponents have to say for their position, then no wonder Mr. Robertson has jumped ship.

    PS
    Mr. Robertson has fought bravely for many years for the hearts and lives of the families of America.
    This statement invoked laughter from me, but then I realized that the author might have been being honest. Then I was shocked and a little scared.

  10. On the other hand, I have encountered hundreds whose lives were decimated by the use of marijuana.”

     
    No, Mr. Spear, you encountered hundreds whose lives were decimated by the drug laws and policy we have in place in this country.  Most police officers and prosecutors have never met a law they didn’t like to enforce.  They understand that more arrests and prosecutions bring job security, grants of money and resources to their departments and offices, and (almost inevitably) more draconian laws that will need to be enforced.  The prison industrial complex, which is becoming more and more privatized, will gobble up drug defendants into the system, billing the government for their “services” and then putting a sizable chunk of their profits into the pockets of lobbyists who will then influence our politicians to continue the madness.     

    Despite Mr. Spears assertions that he, personally, has seen hundreds whose lives were decimated by cannabis, he cannot point to one single instance in the history of humanity in which one human being has died from consuming cannabis.  Instead, he would choose to continue our society on this insane merry go round we have created with our drug laws.  And he will choose to ignore the success of decriminalization in our countries like Portugal.  http://healthland.time.com/2010/11/23/portugals-drug-experience-new-study-confirms-decriminalization-was-a-success/   

    You know who else doesn’t want cannabis legalized?  The drug cartels.  They’re enjoying being able to provide a commodity at highly inflated price.  

    Government is instituted to protect the rights and freedoms we enjoy as American citizens, not to tell us how to live our lives.  It is ridiculous that in the 21st century we are having this debate.  It only took about 15 years for our country to realize in the 20th century that alcohol prohibition did not work.  The war on cannabis has been going on for nearly 80 years now.  Americans are still consuming it despite the legal risks that it carries.  The war on drugs is an absolute failure.                

    Mr. Spear is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the United States Constitution, and the wrong side of humanity.  And it’s all over a little plant which grows wild over nearly the entire Earth and which was, presumably, placed here by…

    GOD.    

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