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18 Jan, 2022 16:02

Senate hopeful smokes pot in campaign ad

The Democratic Party’s messaging on marijuana has come a long way since Bill Clinton said he “didn’t inhale” it
Senate hopeful smokes pot in campaign ad

Gary Chambers, a self-described “social justice advocate” and US Senate candidate from Louisiana, has released a campaign ad featuring himself smoking marijuana while railing against prohibition of the drug.

Released on Tuesday, Chambers’ video is entitled ‘37 Seconds’, a reference to the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) claim that someone is arrested for marijuana possession in the US every 37 seconds. 

Over slow-motion shots of Chambers lighting and smoking what is purportedly a packed marijuana cigarette, the Democratic candidate rattles off a list of arguments against prohibition: 7.3 million Americans arrested over the drug since 2010, states “waste” $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year, black people are four times as likely as whites to be arrested for breaking marijuana laws, and “most of the people” police arrest are not dealers but users caught with small amounts of weed. All of Chambers’ cited statistics are attributed to the ACLU.

Despite literally filming and broadcasting himself consuming marijuana, he likely won’t face any legal trouble for the campaign ad. The use of medicinal marijuana has been legal in Louisiana since the beginning of the year, while a 2021 Louisiana law decriminalized possession of less than 14 grams of pot.

“I hope this ad works to not only destigmatize the use of marijuana, but also forces a new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology,” Chambers wrote on Tuesday.

Chambers’ pathway to Washington, however, could be a difficult one. He came in third place in an open primary to contest Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District last year, with Democrat Troy Carter eventually taking the district’s seat. The district, which encompasses almost all of the city of New Orleans and stretches north to Baton Rouge, is the only Democrat-held district in the state. Even if Chambers wins his party’s nomination to fight for the Senate this November, he would face off against Senator John Kennedy – a Republican who won the election in 2016 by a margin of more than 20 points.

Whatever his chances at the ballot box, Chambers represents the continuation of the Democratic party’s embrace of cannabis. Then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton told America in the 1990s that he tried a reefer but “didn’t inhale,” Barack Obama said of himself a decade later that he “inhaled … that was the point,” while President Joe Biden has more recently promised to federally decriminalize possession and legalize medicinal marijuana.

Biden has yet to follow through on this pledge, and marijuana laws still vary from state to state, with the sale and consumption of pot fully legal and regulated in 18 American states and the District of Columbia, and completely illegal in 11. Other states include some provisions for medicinal use, or have decriminalized possession and use of the drug.