Gary Chambers Ad: What the Existence of a Blunt-Smoking Candidate for U.S. Senate Says About the Weird Politics of Weed in 2022

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This week, Louisiana U.S. Senate candidate Gary Chambers put out what was in many ways an unremarkable ad for a Democratic politician: talking straight to the camera, he decried racial disparities in policing and the money wasted on the drug war. But the ad went viral, pulling in millions of views—and it’s not hard to see why, given that he was smoking a sizable blunt throughout. 

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Any double-takes are understandable—we’re not used to seeing candidates for high office light up on camera. But given that a recent Pew survey found that an “overwhelming” majority of Americans support legal weed—including even a sizable plurality of Republican voters—from another perspective it’s odd that more Democrats aren’t embracing getting blazed. (It would be normal to see a Democratic politician speak our in support of Black Lives Matter, advocate a crackdown on big tech, or call to protect legal abortion. But all three of those issues are nationally much less popular than legal pot.) 

So far, this reality has not moved the national leadership of the Democratic party. President Biden in particular has been hesitant to embrace the issue. Part of this might have to do with the age breakdown of legalization support—it’s least popular with the older voters who make up a  disproportionate share of the national electorate. (It also may simply be that the 79-year-old Biden’s thoughts on the matter match his age.) But that Pew survey showed even a slim plurality of voters over 65 are in favor of legal recreational pot.  

Given the Louisiana’s heavy Republican slant, weed will probably not be enough to win a Senate seat. But Democrats need wins in a political climate where it seems like the party is headed to a midterm wipeout. And debates over “popularism,” paying more attention to which issues and rhetorical styles poll well, seem increasingly to be shaping Democratic political thinking. In other words, Gary Chambers might not be the last weed smoking Senate candidate we see this year. 


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