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pot

Going where no pol has gone before, Gary Chambers smokes a cigar-size joint in his great first campaign ad to highlight racial disparities in drug laws. Screenshot.

Chambers Smokes A Blunt, God Busts A Rib

Abby Zimet

Holy smoke: Because dark times call for bold measures, we are here for social justice advocate and Louisiana Senate candidate Gary Chambers, who knows nothing is scarier to racist yahoos than a big, fierce, dapper, mouthy, truth-telling, weed-smoking black dude - which is why, in his thunderous first campaign ad, "37 Seconds," he sits throne-like in a field ripping a giant blunt while noting grotesque racial disparities in outdated pot laws and arguing for change. A self-described "native son of Baton Rouge," Chambers is a 36-year-old publisher, consultant and community organizer who's worked for criminal justice reform, health care access and economic equity for minority businesses under the rubric, "Do good, seek justice." (Isaiah 1:17.) A fierce progressive firmly in the Dems' Bernie/AOC wing, he supports the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and a $15 per hour minimum wage - especially in a hardscrabble state that ranks last in the country or close to it in economic opportunity, health care, education, crime and environmental issues. Last year, Chambers finished third in a special election primary; he hopes to beat a moderate Dem to run against GOP Sen. John Kennedy, a right-wing dimwit who likes to blast Biden for running "a tight shipwreck" without ever mentioning GOP obstruction. Though he's a graduate of Vanderbilt and Oxford, he often adopts bizarre, faux folksy aphorisms - "Carry your happy ass," "About as sharp as a bowling ball" - that uncannily echo Looney Tunes' wise-guy chicken Foghorn Leghorn. In a state with a Dem governor that leans heaviy Republican - Trump won by 28 points, Kennedy by 20 -  Chambers hopes to pull off a Raphael-Warnock-like upset. If he does, he'd be the first black person elected to Congress by Louisiana since Reconstruction over 150 years ago.

To Chambers, the archaic, racist laws around pot - and the damage they've done - embody the injustices visited disproportionately on people of color by a broken system. Thus, his first powerhouse ad: As a clock ticks off 37 seconds, he sits regal in an armchair in a field, lights up a massive joint, and declares, "Every 37 seconds, someone is arrested for possession of marijuana." As smoke billows, he cites the damning facts: Since 2010, police have arrested 7.3 million people, half of all drug arrests, for weed; black people are four times more likely to be arrested than white; states waste $3.7 billion a year enforcing the laws; most of those arrested aren't dealers, but "people with small amounts of pot - just like me." Today, over 60% of Americans believe pot should be legal for medical/recreational use; 18 states and D.C. have legalized small amounts, 27 have decriminalized them - fines, no prison. With the ad, Chambers seeks to de-stigmatize weed, find a pathway to legalizing it, forgive those arrested due to "outdated ideology," and affirm "policing cannabis isn't making us safer" in a state ravaged by crime, lack of jobs and the nation's fifth highest rate of opioid prescription: "I smoked a blunt so I could kick these facts about Louisiana." He uses pot to pinpoint other failures: "Politicians have been smoking our tax resources to benefit only a few - they've left us in ashes because they won’t (bring) change on a host of issues." As to Leghorn, already whining "we don't need another 'woke activist' in Congress": "We can smoke Kennedy out." His ad, meanwhile, has drawn acclaim. "He's literally running for higher office!" said one fan. And, "This is very good. The lord accepts your burnt offering and is well pleased in you." If he wins, we can see God laughing so hard, she'd bust a rib.


Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: azimet18@gmail.com

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