An upstart U.S. Senate candidate from Louisiana challenging a Republican incumbent is making the decriminalization of marijuana a central part of his platform in his first campaign ad.
Gary Chambers, a progressive Democrat who identifies in part as a social justice activist and advocate, released the new ad Tuesday, just about one week after he declared his candidacy. The ad is entitled “37 seconds” in a reference to the frequency with which marijuana-related arrests take place in the U.S.
“Every 37 seconds, someone is arrested for possession of marijuana,” Chambers says in the ad with a voiceover that shows him sitting in a chair and lighting up what appears to be a blunt — marijuana rolled in cigar paper. “Since 2010, state and local police have arrested an estimated 7.3 million Americans for violating marijuana laws, over half of all drug arrests.”
The ad also lasts for 37 seconds.
According to Chambers’ own campaign website, he is prioritizing “the most vulnerable” Louisianans and is running on a record of contributing “to advancements in the justice system, healthcare access, and to equality in the municipal contracting process for minority owned businesses.”
Louisiana has among the nation’s strictest marijuana laws as a growing number of states continue to relax their laws or completely decriminalize the drug for adults’ recreational use. According to NORML, penalties in Louisiana for possession — not distribution or cultivation — of marijuana range from a fine up to 40 years in prison.
Late last month, Governor John Bel Edwards signed House Bill 391 into law allowing the use of medical marijuana.
Local news outlet the Advocate reported that Chambers, who is based in Baton Rouge, filmed his ad in New Orleans “where the City Council recently passed an ordinance instructing police not to arrest or even cite people for small amounts of marijuana.”
“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 a statement as he said he would run for U.S. Senate. “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.”
He added later: “No Louisianan is alone, there are more of us ready to help our neighbors and lift our communities to give us all a fair shot at a bright future and prosperous life here in this state. If we work together, we can bring real change to Louisiana.”
Chambers will be facing another Democratic candidate in the primary to determine who will run against incumbent Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy. Chambers last year waged an unsuccessful campaign to replace former U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who left his seat in Congress to become a current senior adviser to President Joe Biden.
If Chambers is victorious, he will become the nation’s 12th Black U.S. Senator.
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