It’s fairly common knowledge that America’s cannabis prohibition laws were enacted on a foundation of fear, ignorance, and racism. In the early 20th century, local officials in the Southwest began outlawing cannabis when they observed Hispanic men enjoying their mota after a hard day’s work. Harry Anslinger, America’s first drug czar, famously used the fear of race mixing to ramp up reefer madness and pass the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which formally codified federal prohibition. Over the past 50 years, marijuana laws have been used selectively against people of color, resulting in our nation’s overincarceration crisis. Even today, black people are four times more likely to be stopped and arrested for marijuana possession than white people.
So it came as no surprise to see this video, unearthed earlier today, of Kansas State Rep. Steve Alford (R-Ulysses) explaining to a town hall meeting that he’s against cannabis legalization because of–well, frankly, because of African-Americans.
Black people, Alford said during the Saturday night gathering in Garden City, KS, were “users” who responded especially poorly to cannabis because of their “genetics” and “character makeup.”
Here’s the video, which must be seen to be believed:
“Basically any way you say it, marijuana is an entry drug into the higher drugs,” Alford said in response to a suggestion that legalization could raise money for the state of Kansas. “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.
“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.”
By Monday, word of Alford’s “explanation” had leaked to the press, and the backpedaling began.
“I was wrong, I regret my comments and I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have hurt,” Alford said in a statement.