A US congressional candidate who openly uses cannabis? We have all the tea on Anthony Clark running for Illinois' 7th District accompanied by PTSD, Bechet's disease and cannabis.

If you think that an open cannabis user wouldn’t be a US congressional candidate – think again.

It’s not often you see someone running for political power who looks or acts like you, but Anthony Clark is hoping to help change that while running as a candidate for Chicago’s 7th District.

Clark doesn’t hide the fact that he uses cannabis; he’s incredibly open about it during his campaign and the reason we chatted with him about that decision.

How and why does a US congressional candidate use cannabis alongside his campaign? Read on for all the tea!

Fun fact: Abraham Lincoln represented the 7th district before being elected president, though the area he represented now lies within Illinois’ 18th congressional district.

American flag in Chicago representing US congressional candidates

Cannabis laws in the United States

Cannabis has always been a touchy subject in the United States – some would even argue that the US is where global cannabis prohibition stemmed from.

However, after decades of being banned, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996.

This was followed by other states over the years including Oregon, Colorado and Washington and in January, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes.

Even with legalization spreading across the country, federal law still keeps a number of roadblocks in place. Although more information is now available about cannabis, other states and countries are still slow to legalize cannabis and the stigma is still very much alive.

Meet US congressional candidate, Anthony Clark

While Clark affirms his position to end the war on drugs, which includes the federal legalization of cannabis, on the phone, Clark humbly said that he “isn’t a leader, just someone who’s tired of the bullshit”.

His efforts have done everything from helping the homeless to helping people pay for their car repairs. He tried to address these problems with what he calls “interconnected solutions”.

Clark received the Villager of the Year award in 2017 from his community for his services, which led to his first congressional nomination. In 2018, he ran for the United States House of Representatives with the Justice Democrats, an American progressive movement.

Anthony Clark, a US congressional candidate speaking at event
Courtesy: Anthony Clark

Though unable to secure a seat in the 2018 election, Anthony Clark’s mission wasn’t over. He is running again as a US congressional candidate in this year’s November election.

Clark is also super involved in his own progressive movements, promoting powerful messages that include criminal justice reform and education reform.

Bringing change to Chicago’s 7th District

There are a variety of reasons someone would take up arms and decide to run for congress. For Clark, he has seriously been affected by wealth disparity in his community.

“You could literally walk across the street and see what wealth looked like. […] Years had gone by since I left high school and fundamentally nothing had changed. Nothing had changed for black people, brown people, poor people, people in the struggle. Things are getting worse.” Anthony Clark (US Congressional Candidate; Illinois District 7.)

Clark talked about how his frustration kept building “whether as a teacher in a broken education system or starting non-profits,” he felt these were only treating the symptoms, not curing the disease.

He says that things need to be changed at a root level. He believes that in order to attack root-cause issues, you can’t just be in the street. You also need to simultaneously attack and change policy.

Why is cannabis important to a US congressional candidate?

Clark was the victim of gun violence, has PTSD from serving in the military and is suffering from Bechet’s disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack its own healthy cells.

Cannabis has been away for Clark to find relief for the symptoms of his health issues. Being open about cannabis has helped others find the courage to seek their own help.

US congressional candidate Anthony Clarke smoking a joint
Courtesy: Anthony Clark

By going out of his way to be informative and helpful, like helping patients get medical cards, he’s seen people stop taking addictive opioids in favour of cannabis.

Clark himself was taking 65 milligrams per day of Prednisone for his Bechet’s disease, but cannabis has allowed him to get off the medication entirely. He also was the victim of a hit-and-run in August 2019 and turned down an opioid prescription from his doctor.

“Cannabis has been a lifesaver for me as a medicine. It’s past time that we change the narrative. For me to be a black male who utilizes cannabis, I’m going to be a positive image for cannabis users, no matter what platform I have. We need to eliminate the stigma and identify cannabis as a solution to the opioid crisis.” Anthony Clark (US Congressional Candidate; Illinois District 7.)

He says that the growing stresses of society, such as debt and unemployment, can also be a valid reason to seek relief through cannabis. Cannabis was a pain reliever for him, and he uses it on a daily basis in regards to his mental health and stability as well.

Thinking about using cannabis for pain relief? Here’s how I use cannabis to treat migraines.

Educating others on cannabis use as a US congressional candidate

Clark takes it upon himself to speak with individuals who have never previously thought of using cannabis as a medicine or a remedy.

“My father is in his 70’s, and he hadn’t smoked cannabis since he was a teen. Now, he’s living his best quality of life because I reintroduced him to cannabis, as he has PTSD from the war in Vietnam.” Anthony Clark (US Congressional Candidate; Illinois District 7.)

US congressional candidate for Illinois speaking with people
Courtesy: Anthony Clark

In addition to helping countless individuals get their medical cards, Clark helps youth understand why people smoke cannabis and helped educate adults on the benefits.

“I’m not here to tell people to smoke or not smoke cannabis, I’m here to talk to people about cannabis, and I’ve seen positive impacts on young students especially. I’ve seen young people who used to be 24-hour-a-day smokers who now hardly smoke anymore. They have a positive role model who they can relate with. They don’t see Mr. Clark teaching with a blunt in his mouth, because he has responsibilities, he’s using it in a responsible way.” Anthony Clark (US Congressional Candidate; Illinois District 7.)

Thoughts on the legal cannabis industry

“Not every doctor works with cannabis, because the Big Pharma industries have their hands in their pockets.” Anthony Clark (US Congressional Candidate; Illinois District 7.)

Clark wants to ensure that any tax dollars that come from the legal cannabis industry goto paying reparations to black and brown communities, as the war on drugs had mostly profited off young black and brown people.

“When you look at cannabis on social media today, you see predominantly smiling white faces, profiting off of cannabis. Meanwhile, black and brown communities have been devastated by prohibition. We cannot allow the individuals who benefitted from prohibition to also profit from legalization. The money needs to go into helping black, brown and poor people suffering from the struggle.” Anthony Clark (US Congressional Candidate; Illinois District 7.)

The reaction to a US congressional candidate who uses cannabis

And of course, it’s not surprising to see that being an open cannabis user in America doesn’t go without backlash.

“There’s always going to be someone with something to say, but I’m not allowing them to dictate what I do, because they are still caught within the system. You do get pushback. You get colleagues with something smart to say. First and foremost, they are bothered by a black male who has such a bold voice. I don’t put civility first, I speak up.” Anthony Clark (US Congressional Candidate; Illinois District 7.)

US congressional candidate Anthony Clark on the news
Courtesy: Anthony Clark

What does one do when battling the stigma? For Clark, he keeps on keeping on.

“I’ve had people call the police on me, call my job, report me, things of that nature. Whatever happens to me, you have to be willing to risk things and sacrifice for changes.” Anthony Clark (US Congressional Candidate; Illinois District 7.)

Currently, it appears that Clark is the only open cannabis user running for congress.

Want to see some more stories of people shaking up the industry? Read volume 1, volume 2, and volume 3!