A Republican lawmaker in Kansas made an outwardly racist comment this week when he suggested that Black Americans “responded worst off” to pot because of their “genetics” and “character makeup.”
The remark came during a “Legislative Coffee” session at St. Catherine Hospital Saturday, Jan. 6, as Rep. Steve Alford (R) cited Jim Crow-era drug policies outlawing drugs such as marijuana, The Garden City Telegram reported. Alford suggested that the reasons behind the stiff ban on intoxicants at the time was basically to protect other Americans from the consequences of drug abuse by Blacks.
“Basically any way you say it, marijuana is an entry drug into the higher drugs,” Alford told a crowd of about 60 people – none of whom were African-American. “What you really need to do is go back in the 1930’s, when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas and across the United States.”
“What was the reason why they did that?” the lawmaker continued. “One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, was that the African Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off to those drugs just because of their character makeup, their genetics and that. And so basically, what we are trying to do is we’re trying to do a complete reverse with people not remembering what has happened in the past.”
Alford was responding to Zach Worf, president of Finney County Democrats, who argued that legalizing marijuana could be an economic boon for Kansas. Worf told the newspaper he felt like he had gone back in time for a moment after hearing the lawmaker’s remarks, adding that he later told Alford his comments were “…the most racist thing [he had] ever heard.”
Alford’s brief “history lesson” echoed ideas postulated by man named Harry Anslinger, the founding commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics who called for the prohibition of the cannabis plant in the 1930s, The Garden City Telegram reported. Anslinger, well known for his racist ideals, argued that weed caused violence and crime, saying, “Reefer makes darkies think they are as good as white men.”
Anslinger reportedly once commented that, “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
As for Alford, no one addressed his racist comment during the Legislative Coffee gathering. It was only afterward that fellow Republicans said they disagreed with his remarks.
“As to genetics, I can’t say I agree with that at all,” Rep. John Wheeler (R-Garden City) told the newspaper. “As to going back to the 1930s as reason, I was not alive then, so I don’t know anything about that.”
“As to the racial component, I don’t agree with it,” he continued, adding, “I know Rep. Alford quite well. He’s not a racist man.”
Alford has since apologized for the remark, saying what he was referring to were drugs’ “damaging effects on the African-American community.”