It’s hard to believe Jim Crow-era rhetoric is making a comeback in 2018.
Amid the marijuana legalization movement slowly sweeping across the United States, a Kansas state representative argued marijuana should be illegal in his state because African-American “genetics” and “character makeup” can’t handle its effects.
Rep. Steve Alford made the comments Saturday (Jan. 6) at a Kansas hospital during a legislative coffee session, according to the Garden City Telegram. Kansas is among the few states that hasn’t legalized some form of medical marijuana. When a local Democrat argued green lighting marijuana could be a good financial move for Kansas, Alford referred to the racist logic of Harry Anslinger that fueled the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
Aslinger was appointed the founding commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narctoics and campaigned for a stop to marijuana use because he said it caused crime and violence, using racist language such as "Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men" and "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negros, 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."
Alford's comments echoed some of Aslinger.
“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.”
The local newspaper reported no one at the event addressed Alford’s comments, and later asked him to clarify his remarks. Although he wasn’t able to cite a specific source, he still stood by his statement.
Carl Brewer, a Democratic candidate for governor told local news station Alford's comments were inappropriate for a politician in 2018.
“It’s hard to believe that in 2018, anyone would support the discredited and racist policies of the Jim Crow-era. No matter one’s feelings on medical marijuana and marijuana legalization, we can all agree that views like those of KS Rep. Alford have no place in our statehouse, in our state or in our country,” Brewer said in a statement.
Alford issued a public apology Monday (Jan. 8) after he received backlash from lawmakers and state officials.