Political ads are often one of the most exhausting parts about election season. Anytime one comes on, I use it as an excuse to let my ADHD run wild so I don’t have to listen to another politician using that annoyingly earnest voice. But this week, Louisiana Democratic Senate candidate Gary Chambers shook up the scene, putting out an ad featuring him flat-out smoking weed. I’ll give credit where it’s due: It’s a boss ass move.
Last week, Chambers, a community organizer in Baton Rogue who previously ran to represent Louisiana’s 2nd District, joined the race alongside Luke Mixon, who, while also Democrat, is much more moderate. The two are running against the current seatholder, Republican Sen. John Kennedy. You don’t need to know much about Kennedy aside from the fact that Donald Trump has endorsed Kennedy’s 2022 re-election bid.
“Every single day, Louisianans across the state work hard to lift their families up to make ends meet and to build a better future for their children, and every day they are met with roadblock after roadblock, especially this past year,” Chambers said in announcing his run, local outlet WAFB9 reported. He continued, “I’m running for Louisiana Senate because it’s time for real change in Louisiana from a candidate who understands first-hand the challenges facing Louisianans every day.”
Nothing makes that more clear than Chambers’s first campaign ad.
The clip shows Chambers smoking a joint in New Orleans field. While all marijuana isn’t legal (just the medicinal stuff) in Louisiana, New Orleans’s city council decriminalized it in August 2021, instructing police not to arrest or cite people for small amounts. In the ad, Chambers says, “Every 37 seconds, someone is arrested for possession of marijuana. Since 2010, state and local police have arrested an estimated 7.3 million Americans for violating marijuana laws, over half of all drug arrests.”
“Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana laws than white people. States waste $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year,” Chambers adds. He then goes on to finish the ad by saying, “Most of the people police are arrested aren’t dealers, but rather people with small amounts of pot, just like me.”
Nationwide, people are getting more comfortable with marijuana. In 2021, the Pew Research Center reported that 60% of adults said marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use. But there is still a level of stigma attached to weed use — especially if you are Black.
It’s well-known that drug criminalization targets communities of color. In 2022, the American Civil Liberties Union reported that Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession. And while states that legalized marijuana had lower rates of racial disparities in possession arrests, they still didn’t vanish entirely.
According to The Advocate, Chambers is the first candidate running for statewide office — and, most likely, any office — in Louisiana to smoke weed in a political ad. But, of course, the conversation doesn’t end with legalization. The global weed industry is expected to be a $70 billion market by 2028. But within it, racial disparities are clear. In 2017, 81% of marijuana business owners in the U.S. were white.
While decriminalizing marijuana is a good place to start, it can’t be the end goal. As Chambers tweeted, there needs to be a “pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology.”