The ad is titled “37 Seconds,” a reference to a research finding that police in the U.S. make a marijuana-related arrest every 37 seconds on average.
“Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana laws than white people,” Chambers says. “States waste $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year. Most of the people police are arresting aren’t dealers, but rather people with small amounts of pot, just like me.”
While marijuana hasn’t been legalized for adult use in Louisiana, possession of up to 14 grams was decriminalized last year and is now punishable by a $100 fine. And in New Orleans, where the ad was filmed, police recently announced that they would no longer be issuing citations over simple possession of cannabis alone. The governor also signed a bill last year to let patients in the state’s medical cannabis program legally smoke whole-plant marijuana flower.
“For too long, candidates have used the legalization of marijuana as an empty talking point in order to appeal to progressive voters,” Chambers said in a press release. “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new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology.”
Chambers, a longstanding social justice advocate in Baton Rouge who previously ran for a U.S. House seat, is running against incumbent Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who hasn’t sponsored cannabis-related legislation since entering office in 2017.
In the press release, Chambers said he’s supportive of the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act, a congressional bill introduced by bipartisan lawmakers last month that would incentivize states and local governments to expunge cannabis records in their jurisdictions.
He also backs the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, another bipartisan bill to protect financial institutions that service state-legal cannabis businesses. That legislation has cleared the House in some form five times but has consistently stalled in the Senate.
Chambers isn’t the first person running for Congress who’s been open about flouting federal marijuana prohibition.
Anthony Clark, an Illinois candidate who ran an unsuccessful primary challenge against a Democratic congressional incumbent in 2020, made waves after he smoked marijuana in a campaign ad while discussing his personal experience with cannabis and the need for federal reform. He also hosted what he called the “first-ever congressional weed party” in a campaign video.
Also that year, a Democratic candidate for a House seat to represent Oregon frequently discussed consuming and cultivating cannabis herself.
A sitting member of Congress has never publicly smoked marijuana, but several lawmakers have visited marijuana farms, companies and state-legal dispensaries. Rep. James Comer (R-KY) brought CBD oil products he uses to a committee hearing in 2019.
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said in 2019 that while he doesn’t smoke marijuana, “I do grow it legally,” but a spokesperson later clarified that he was broadly referring to legal cultivation in the state.