A politician intentionally smoked cannabis on camera in an online video ad, and the nation is freaking out. Gary Chambers Jr., an aspiring Louisiana politician who finished strongly in last year’s House race, is using social media and marijuana to raise awareness for his Senate campaign.
The Democratic nominee for the US Senate in Louisiana smoked a blunt (or cannabis-filled) cigar for 37 seconds during an online video advertisement on Tuesday.
He spent the time listing America’s arrest statistics, noting that black men are four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white men. Chambers posted the video on his YouTube and Instagram accounts.
This video marks the first time a major party Senate candidate has admitted to smoking cannabis — let alone showing himself in the act. Chambers is running for Senate in a state that is 33% black, but has not elected a black man to statewide office in 149 years.
The state has more than 3 million registered voters, yet the current Senate seat, held by Republican Senator John Kennedy, won the 2016 election by just 536,204 votes.
Louisiana’s demographics are strikingly similar to Georgia, which elected two Democrats to the Senate last year. Chambers hopes the publicity garnered from his public smoking session will draw attention to this opportunity for a change in the Louisian Senate.
“We need the Democratic Party to give Louisiana the same attention that we give Georgia,” Chambers said forbes in an interview on Tuesday. “I smoked a blunt and now everyone’s talking,” he said.
The political newcomer is working to topple Kennedy, who has nearly $10 million in campaign funds at his disposal. Chambers has about $170 to spend, according to the Associated Press. He urges his followers on Twitter to share the ad and donate to his campaign.
His progressive policies include legalizing cannabis for adults, expanding Medicare coverage to everyone, and supporting President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
Chambers and his campaign team shot the video in New Orleans, where penalties for cannabis smokers are tantamount to violating the city’s smoking bans. It’s a slightly more lenient policy than the rest of Louisiana, where possession of cannabis has been decriminalized since August 2020. The maximum penalty for possession of up to 14 grams is a $100 fine.
That’s not the case in neighboring Texas or Alabama. Possession is still a misdemeanor and can result in smokers being stopped and searched. According to NORML, searches often lead to more serious or violent interactions with the police.
Statewide legalization would create a uniform set of laws for every American citizen, but would require overcoming major obstacles in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats support legalization, but there is still a great deal of stigma surrounding use of the drug. chambers told forbes that is hypocritical.
“I know a lot of politicians who smoke weed, as well as business people,” Chambers said. “Somebody has to go out there and do it. That’s not so controversial.”
Cover photo courtesy of Gary Chambers, Jr.