Louisiana Senate candidate Gary Chambers Jr. released a campaign ad Tuesday in which he smokes marijuana in an attempt to spark “a new conversation.”
In the ad, Chambers Jr., a Democrat and social justice activist looking to unseat Republican Sen. John Kennedy, is sitting in a chair smoking a rolled marijuana blunt. While he’s smoking, Chambers cites marijuana statistics in a voiceover.
“Every 37 seconds, someone is arrested for marijuana, since 2010, state and local police have arrested an estimated 7.3 million Americans for violating marijuana laws,” Chambers said. “Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana laws than white people, and states spend $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws each year.”
Chambers explained the motivation behind his ad in a tweet, saying, “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new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology.”
In a statement to CNN, Chambers said it is “long past due that politicians stop pretending to be better or different than the people they represent,” adding it’s time to overhaul the criminal justice system’s treatment of marijuana.
Currently, 19 states have full legalization. Another 17 states plus Washington D.C. have medical legalization, and 12 states have no program for legal marijuana. Legalization is still pending in Mississippi and South Dakota. Last summer, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana and earlier this month a second bill expanding medical marijuana and legalizing smokable marijuana for medical reasons.
According to NBC News, Republican and Democratic Senate campaign operatives believe this is the first Senate race ad featuring a candidate openly smoking marijuana. Presidents who’ve admitted to smoking marijuana include Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, John F Kennedy, and George W. Bush.
Chambers ran unsuccessfully in the 2021 Democratic primary in a special congressional election to replace Rep. Cedric Richmond, who joined the Biden administration last year.