Black People More Prone To Effects of Marijuana Due To 'Genetics,' 'Character Makeup,' Kansas Republican Says

A Republican Kansas lawmaker says that black Americans handle marijuana more poorly because of their genetics. He implied that America should return to the Jim Crow era of the '30s. GETTY

Kansas State Representative Steve Alford said Sunday blacks are more affected by marijuana because of their "character makeup" and "their genetics" when trying to explain why drugs should be "outlawed" to a room of 60 people—none of whom were African American.

Alford made the comment during a legislative coffee session in response to a comment that marijuana would offer an economic boost to Kansas.

The 75-year-old Republican also cited the Jim Crow era when all drugs were outlawed in Kansas, according to The Garden City Telegram.

"What was the reason why they did that?" he 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 is we're trying to do a complete reverse with people not remembering what has happened in the past."

On State Rep. Steve Alford's comments on blacks and marijuana use in the 1930s, Zach Worf, president of the Finney County Democrats, said it was “the most racist thing [he had] ever heard.”

— The Garden City Telegram (@GCTelegram) January 8, 2018

Apparently, Alford was referring to the time Harry Anslinger became the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, when he led a crusade against drugs including marijuana, which eventually launched the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Anslinger suggested that marijuana use made people violent and insane and once made the case that jazz musicians believed in Satan because of the drug.

"Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men," he said.

"I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigaret can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents," he also said.

After the event, The Garden City Telegram followed up with Alford to see if he stood by his comments. He continued to harp on the idea that genetics play a role in how people are affected by cannabis.

"There are certain groups of people, their genetics, the way their makeup is, the chemicals will affect them differently," Alford said. "That's what I should have said was drugs affect people differently instead of being more specific."

Alford denied to the Associated Press that he is a racist.

"Basically, I got called a racist, which I'm really not, and it's just the way people — the interpretation of people," he said. "To me, I'm trying to look at what's really the best for Kansas."

Nevertheless, the Republican had to issue an apology Monday afternoon. "I was wrong, I regret my comments and I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have hurt," Alford said in a statement cited by The Topeka Capital-Journal.