Republican lawmaker says marijuana should be illegal because of African American ‘genetics’

Racist historical revisionism at work.

Rep. Steve Alford. CREDIT: screenshot
Rep. Steve Alford. CREDIT: screenshot

A Republican state legislator in Kansas said that marijuana should remain illegal in the state because African Americans are predisposed to respond worse to the drug because of their “character makeup” and “genetics.”

Rep. Steve Alford, from the town of Ulysses in Kansas, made the comments during a weekend legislative coffee session, the Garden City Telegram first reported. During a debate, Zach Worf, president of the Finney County Democrats, argued that marijuana legalization could provide a financial boost for cash-strapped Kansas.

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In response, Alford brought out some trusted conservative talking points about marijuana, including that it was a “gateway” drug, before claiming that Americans needed to be shielded from the adverse effect marijuana has on African Americans.

“What you really need to do is go back in the ’30s, when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas [and] across the United States,” Alford said. “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’re trying to do a complete reverse with people not remembering what has happened in the past.”

Alford is referring to beliefs first propagated by Harry Anslinger, the founding commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who was critical in helping to pass the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which heavily regulated and taxed a previously booming industry. Anslinger said that marijuana “causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others,” and that “the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on degenerate races.” Anslinger also said that “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

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Anslinger’s prohibitionist statements are not only horrifyingly racist but also completely false. Federal data shows that there is virtually no difference between whites and blacks when it comes to using illegal drugs or becoming addicted to them.

When asked after the talk to clarify his remarks, Alford defended his statements. “There are certain groups of peoples, their genetics, the way their makeup is, the chemicals will affect them differently,” he said. “That’s what I should have said — drugs affect people differently — instead of being more specific.”

When later asked by the Kansas City Star to clarify his remarks, Alford said, “I’m about as far from being a racist as I can get.”

Thanks to former Republican Senator Sam Brownback’s woeful budget experiments, Kansas has faced an ongoing series of financial woes. Meanwhile, neighboring Colorado is pulling an extra $2.4 billion into the state’s economy and has added nearly 20,000 jobs since voting to legalize marijuana.