The face and words of conservative icon and television preacher Pat Robetson are being used to sell legal weed in Colorado.
Specifically, Robertson's one-time advocacy of legalizing marijuana and treating it like alcohol is being promoted by The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
"Pat Robertson would vote YES on 64," the campaign's newest billboard, placed just off of I-70 Business Loop in Grand Junction, boldly declares. "Will you?"
While Robertson has not officially endorsed the campaign or its billboard, he has officially endorsed reforming drug policy. "I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol," he told The New York Times in March. "I've never used marijuana and I don't intend to, but it's just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded."
It's a tried-and-true tactic of drug reformers: appeal to authority. In this case, a moral authority -- or, some people's idea of one anyway. But it's certainly not the first time reform advocates have employed the tactic. Nearly a decade ago in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's face and words landed on a billboard by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), along with a quote from Bloomberg explaining that he "enjoyed" smoking marijuana. The Drug Policy Alliance tried placing a similar ad (PDF) in 2010, but one of their business partners backed out of the campaign after it claimed the mayor's office put pressure on them.
"Many people are familiar with Pat Robertson and appreciate his opinions," Betty Aldworth, the campaign's advocacy director, said in prepared text. "In this case, his opinion is that it makes absolutely no sense to allow adults to use alcohol, yet punish them for using marijuana. Mr. Robertson has also decried the massive amount of money wasted on arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning people for marijuana-related offenses. We hope folks will take this opinion into consideration as they cast their votes on Amendment 64 this November."
Drug reform advocates are pursuing legalization initiatives in California, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Montana, Nebraska and Washington as well.
A survey of 500 likely Colorado voters, taken last June by the conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports, found that 61 percent favored legalizing marijuana while just 27 percent were opposed. A Rasmussen survey taken in May found that 56 percent Americans nationwide favor legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol.