Is it true that a Republican lawmaker just justified marijuana prohibition with racism? During a legislative meeting yesterday, the topic of cannabis came up. Since legalization and regulation is a hot button topic, it was to be expected that many would have differing opinions and a debate would ensue. What no one expected, however, were the comments made by Republican Representative Steve Alford.
The discussion of marijuana legalization took hold during the aforementioned legislative meeting. When he was granted the floor, Representative Steve Alford began by talking about impaired driving. In all fairness, impaired driving is a serious issue and has been a source of contention among cannabis activists and lawmakers. Representative Alford made it clear that he was absolutely against people driving while under the influence of both weed and alcohol. Then came some arguments about second-hand smoke and air quality, in which he seemed to conflate cannabis smoke with tobacco smoke.
Alford then segued to the erroneous yet oft-cited gateway theory, claiming that using cannabis would lead to using harder drugs. That’s where things started to go way downhill. In a released video clip, Alford seems to suggest that we re-adopt the attitude towards cannabis that was popular in the 1930s, during the early days of prohibition.
“One of the reasons why [they outlawed cannabis], I hate to say it,” Representative Steve Alford said, “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.”
As one can imagine, the outrage that ensued after the Republican lawmaker just justified marijuana prohibition with racism was swift. Since publication, the video clip went viral. The members of the Wichita, Kansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) were understandably upset. The chapter president, Larry Burks, Sr, made a statement regarding the controversial remarks.
“It puts in bad light an entire race of people,” he said. “I majored in pre-med and biology myself and nowhere in my genetic studies did it say that African Americans had a gene that predisposed them to have bad character.”
Final Hit: A Republican Lawmaker Just Justified Marijuana Prohibition With Racism
Representative Alford has since apologized for what he said.
“I was wrong,” he said. “I regret my comments and I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have hurt.”
But given that people of color, especially Black people, are disproportionately targeted by the police, prosecuted for drug crimes and subjected to police brutality, some were not satisfied with the apology.
“As a legislator, he is held to a higher standard,” said Burks, “and if he fails to maintain that standard he does not deserve to be in that position representing the tax-paying citizens of this state of Kansas, of which a number of African Americans are.”