INDIANAPOLIS — Thomas McDermott Jr., a candidate for U.S. Senate from Indiana and mayor of Hammond, has released a campaign ad that sees him walk the extra mile in advocating for the legalization of marijuana.
In the ad, McDermott doesn't just talk about why he supports legalizing weed; he actually smokes a joint.
"The legalization of cannabis is important in this campaign," McDermott says in the video after lighting up the joint and inhaling.
The video was filmed in Illinois, where marijuana has been legalized.
The ad sees McDermott seated in a circle with attorneys, a physician, a professional distiller, and a member of Hammond City Council all voicing their support for the legalization of the substance.
"Here's the bottom line: We need to legalize marijuana on the federal level. We need to also legalize cannabis in Indiana as well, so Hoosiers can get the health and economic benefits of cannabis. That's the future we all deserve," McDermott says in the video.
"Veterans deserve this. Some of the people I served with use it medicinally for anxiety and PTSD-related issues," McDermott says, referencing his military service.
McDermott is the 20th mayor of Hammond and the city's first Democratic mayor in 20 years, according to his candidate page. He's currently serving his fifth consecutive term as Mayor.
If elected to the Senate, McDermott would unseat Sen. Todd Young (R).
WRTV has reached out to Sen. Young's office for comment but has not heard back.
Earlier this month, the U.S. House passed a bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and remove criminal penalties for certain cannabis-related offenses. It passed by a vote of 220-204, ABC News reported.
The vote was mostly along party lines, with three Republicans — Reps. Tom McClintock, Brian Mast and Matt Gaetz — joining almost all Democrats in voting for the legislation, ABC News reported.
McDermott joined Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears at a conference Tuesday where they spoke about why they think the law should change.
McDermott cited economic benefits and safer methods of obtaining marijuana, among other reasons.
"Almost all Hoosiers can agree: wouldn't we be better served if Ryan's prosecutors were working on violent criminals instead of people that were carrying a plant? I think so," McDermott said.
McDermott also noted that he is against driving under the influence of marijuana and allowing people under 21 years old to use it.
"Purchasing and possessing cannabis should be treated like we treat purchasing and possessing alcohol, in my opinion," McDermott said. "I think that we should decriminalize it federally, I think that we should decriminalize it in Indiana, and we should earmark all that tax money that we can make for our schools, for our veterans to increase their healthcare, and earmark it for mental health professionals. It's time to legalize cannabis across the board — federally and locally."
Mears said he made the decision to not prosecute cases surrounding possession of marijuana in part because of the benefit it has for veterans.
"I cannot tell you the number of times I've had conversations with veterans about the pain and the struggle that they go through on a day-to-day basis. The use of cannabis has helped them manage their pain, whether it be emotional or physical because of the sacrifices that they've made for our country," Mears said.
"It makes absolutely no sense for us to continuously stigmatize and criminalize people who are not out here trying to get high trying to have a good time; (they're) out here using cannabis, using marijuana so they can manage their pain so they can get through the day," he added.
In a tweet, McDermott flaunted the fact that he consumed weed on camera, stating, "not many Senate candidates will admit to having smoked weed. I'm not most Senate candidates — I just lit up on camera."
Gov. Eric Holcomb has previously admitted to using marijuana while in college. He has also said he opposes the legalization of the substance in Indiana, either for medicinal or recreational use.
“If the law changed, it should change by being informed itself,” Holcomb has said. "Not allowing some hodgepodge national effort to organically spring up because some folks are looking the other way. This would require medical research and science.”
Under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning there is no accepted medical use and it has a high potential for abuse. It is on the same level as heroin, LSD, ecstasy and others.