VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (CBSDC/AP) — Advocates for decriminalizing marijuana have a new ally in religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

The outspoken evangelical Christian in 2010 called for ending mandatory prison sentences for marijuana possession convictions. Now the 81-year-old who hosts “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network he founded is calling for the decriminalization of marijuana.

“I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up,” Robertson said on his show.

Robertson first called for decriminalizing marijuana on his show March 1. He repeated that sentiment in an interview with The New York Times that was published Thursday. His spokesman confirmed Robertson’s statements.

Robertson says he has never used marijuana, and he doesn’t intend to. But he says an unsuccessful war on drugs is costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

The 81-year old Robertson told The New York Times that there was never an event or moment that caused him to embrace legalization but that his conviction of the nation “has gone overboard on this concept of being tough on crime” built up over time.

“It’s completely out of control,” Robertson said. “Prisons are being overcrowded with juvenile offenders having to do with drugs. And the penalties, the maximums, some of them could get 10 years for possession of a joint of marijuana. It makes no sense at all.”

He says marijuana should be regulated like alcohol.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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