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A Louisiana candidate for Senate made political history this week by likely becoming the first United States political aspirant to smoke cannabis in a campaign ad. Baton Rogue media entrepreneur Gary Chambers’ clip shows him smoking a blunt while he speaks about the racial bias of cannabis prohibition. It last for 37 seconds, which Chambers explains is the increment of time between arrests for marijuana possession in this country.
My first campaign ad, ‘37 Seconds.’ #JustLikeMe— Gary Chambers (@GaryChambersJr) January 18, 2022
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new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology. pic.twitter.com/G0qKvmUGKD
"States waste $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year,” the Democrat Chambers says in the ad, as he pulls on a blunt. “Most of the people police are arresting aren't dealers but rather people with small amounts of pot, just like me.” He adds that Black people are four times as likely as whites to be arrested for cannabis possession.
The candidate told CNN that it is “long past due that politicians stop pretending to be better or different than the people they represent.”
Chambers ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in 2021, and identifies on his campaign website as a community organizer and co-founder of the (now defunct) magazine The Rogue Collection. He will be running against commercial airline pilot and Democrat Luke Mixon in the primary to face off against the Republican Senator John Kennedy, who has held the office since 2017.
His “37 Seconds” clip has gone viral, providing an optimal platform for Chambers’ message that his party should not give up on his state in the upcoming mid-term elections. Like Georgia, which narrowly voted for Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Louisiana is a traditionally Republican-controlled state with a large Black community that has historically been kept from its voting rights.
“There’s a passage in Scripture: take the foolish things of the world to confound the wise,” Chambers said, quoting Corinthians in an interview with a Forbes reporter. “What we hope is that this moment makes people pay attention to Louisiana, and see it not as a lost cause, but a golden opportunity.”
Louisiana has made progress on ending cannabis prohibition, particularly in comparison to other Southern states. In August, it decriminalized small scale cannabis possession. The state legalized medicinal marijuana in 2016, and expanded access to include inhalers in 2019 (patients are still barred from smokable forms of cannabis.)
But Chambers’ clip represents a new milestone in the state’s cannabis access. The video has certainly made the rounds, grabbing international headlines and even showing up on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert." It enthused some Louisianan Democrats, including longtime campaign worker Ben Pollara, who told NBC, “Wow. It’s one of the greatest things I’ve seen.”
It may have been the first time a US political candidate smoked weed in a political ad. It is not, however, the first time — even in the last two months — that an aspiring policy maker’s pointed toke has shown up in campaign propaganda in this hemisphere. In a video posted to Twitter on November 30, Costa Rica’s Margarita Salas, a Vamos Party legislative candidate, packed and sparked a bowl of marijuana while speaking about gender discrimination within the War on Drugs, and the tax benefits of recreational legalization.
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