“Every 37 seconds, someone is arrested for possession of marijuana,” Gary Chambers Jr. says while puffing on a blunt in his new campaign ad. In an unprecedented move, the candidate for the U.S. Senate out of Louisiana unapologetically smokes a blunt to raise awareness to the atrocities of the war on drugs.
“Since 2010, state and local police have arrested an estimated 7.3 million Americans for violating marijuana laws, over half of all drug arrests,” he continues, and he is right.
Though 2020 saw a significant decrease in marijuana arrests — likely due to covid lockdowns and police focusing on more pressing issues — several hundred thousand Americans were still arrested on marijuana-related charges in 2020 and 2021. These arrests primarily took place in states where possession of the plant remains criminally outlawed.
As the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) points out, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made an estimated 350,150 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2020. (This total is calculated by multiplying the total percentage of marijuana arrests by region with the total number of estimated drug abuse violations.) This total is a 36 percent decrease from 2019 totals when police made an estimated 545,602 marijuana-related arrests.
“As more states move toward the sensible policy of legalizing and regulating cannabis, we are seeing a decline in the arrest of non-violent marijuana consumers nationwide,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said.
Though arrests have dropped, the fact that a single person loses his or her freedom for having a plant that makes them happy is a travesty. Despite years of broken promises and lies from other politicians, Chambers risked arrest in his own state to drive this point home.
“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 statement. “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new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology.”
Although Joe Biden claimed he would “pursue modest marijuana reform” after he gets in the White House, these claims predictably rang hollow given his lust for locking brown and black people in cages in his past four decades in Washington. The prohibition of cannabis is a major tool used by the police state to go after communities of color and the poor and those who profit from preying on these groups will not give up that power so easily — which is why Biden has refused to even consider legalization.
It is no secret that a marijuana conviction is a blow to individual freedom—even if you were lucky enough not to go to jail or have already gotten out. A drug conviction limits the ability for people to get a job, borrow money, or even find a place to live. This attack on freedom then leads to a function known as recidivism which limits an individual’s choices thereby fostering an environment which will lead to that person ending up back in jail.
What’s more, as this video illustrates, politicians are finally beginning to realize the problem the drug war presents to minorities as they find themselves victims to far more police brutality and harsher penalties in regards to drug enforcement despite using at the same rate as their white counterparts.
It seems that the war on drugs is continuing to unravel. Politicians, wanting to end up on the right side of history, are now making unprecedented moves to remedy some of the problems caused by this immoral war.
Unfortunately, however, there are still plenty of dinosaurs in costumes willing cage people for a plant. So, as we keep winning these battles, it is important to stay on point—because the war is still far from over.