A politician intentionally smoked cannabis on camera in an online video ad and the nation is freaking out. Gary Chambers Jr., an up-and-coming politician in Louisiana who finished strong in the U.S. House race last year, is using social media and marijuana to draw attention to his campaign for Senate.
The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Louisiana smoked a blunt (or cannabis-filled cigar) for 37-seconds during an online video ad on Tuesday.
He spent the time listing America’s arrest statistics, noting Black men are four times more likely than white men to be arrested for cannabis possession. Chambers posted the video to his YouTube and Instagram accounts.
This video is 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, yet has not elected a Black person to statewide office in 149 years.
The state has more than 3 million registered voters, yet the current Senate seat, held by Republican Sen. John Kennedy, won the election in 2016 with only 536,204 votes.
Louisiana’s demographics are strikingly similar to Georgia, which elected two Democrats to the Senate last year. Chambers is hoping the publicity garnered from his public smoke sesh will draw attention to this opportunity for a flip in Louisian’s Senate seat.
“We need the Democratic party to pay attention to Louisiana the same amount as Georgia,” Chambers told Forbes in an interview Tuesday. “I smoked a blunt, and now everyone’s talking,” he said.
The political newcomer is working to unseat Kennedy, who has nearly $10 million in campaign cash on hand. Chambers has about $170 on hand, according to the Associated Press. He is urging his followers on Twitter to share the ad and donate to his campaign.
His progressive policies include legalizing adult-use cannabis, extending Medicare coverage to everyone, and supporting President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
Chambers and his campaign team filmed the video in New Orleans, where penalties for cannabis smokers are akin to a violation of the city’s tobacco-smoking regulations. It’s a slightly more lenient policy than the rest of Louisiana, where cannabis possession has been decriminalized since August, 2020. The maximum penalty for possessing 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 lead to smokers being stopped and searched. Searches often lead to more serious or violent police interactions, according to NORML.
Nationwide legalization would create a standard set of laws for every American citizen, but would require overcoming huge obstacles in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats are pro legalization, but there’s still a lot of stigma around using the drug. Chambers told Forbes that’s hypocritical.
“I know a bunch of politicians who smoke weed as well as business people,” Chambers said. “Somebody’s gotta go out there and do it. It’s not so controversial.”
Header image courtesy Gary Chambers, Jr.