Legalizing marijuana continues to play a central role in the campaign of Gary Chambers Jr., a Democrat challenging U.S. Sen. John Kennedy’s re-election bid.
Chambers’ campaign highlighted his being chosen for the 2022 Policy Changemaker Award at the National Cannabis Festival last weekend in Washington, D.C.
Chambers was selected because of an online ad in January where he puffed on a blunt – a mixture of marijuana and tobacco – and called for decriminalizing possession of the drug.
“His candidacy has changed the way we talk about cannabis on the campaign trail and inspired people around the country to take their voting power to the polls this fall,” said a festival spokesperson. Chambers is the first non-elected official to win the award.
On Wednesday, Chambers went to the State Capitol to offer his support for legalizing marijuana.
“It wasn’t about smoking a blunt,” Chambers told members of the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee, referring to his ad. He said he wanted to bring attention to people like Kevin Allen, who Chambers noted is serving a life sentence after being caught selling $20 of marijuana to a friend who was working as an undercover agent.
Chambers didn’t note that Allen was sentenced to life because previous drug convictions put him into the category of a habitual offender. Allen turned down plea deals that would have sentenced him to 20 years.
Chambers, a social justice activist from Baton Rouge, told the committee members that the Legislature is missing out on significant tax revenue by not legalizing pot. Under current law, consumers of marijuana have to have a doctor’s prescription and can buy the drug only at select pharmacies.
“We’re missing out on a golden opportunity in our state to build a gateway to better roads, bridges and schools,” Chambers said. “We have to come out of these archaic practices.”
Chambers said expanding the availability of marijuana would help people who can’t sleep at night or are opioid addicts.
The Legislature does not appear willing to follow Chambers’ advice this year, however.
The Senate primary is Nov. 8. Kennedy, a Republican, is seeking a second term.
Luke Mixon, a Delta Air Lines pilot who was a Navy fighter pilot, is running as a moderate Democrat.