TOPEKA, Kan. — A white Kansas state lawmaker arguing against the legalization of any use of marijuana suggested that it and other drugs were originally outlawed in part because blacks were "basically users" and "responded worst" to the drugs because of their "character makeup — their genetics and that."
State Rep. Steve Alford, a 75-year-old Republican from Ulysses, in the west of the state, made the comments Saturday during a public meeting at a hospital in Garden City. The Garden City Telegram first reported on the statement Monday and posted a video of it to YouTube.
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Kansas is one of the few remaining states that haven't legalized some form of medical marijuana, including low-THC marijuana derivatives that can't get a user high. But the legalization question has been percolating in Kansas in recent years.
At the meeting, Alford referenced a time in the 1930s when marijuana was prohibited.
"What was the reason they did that?" he asked a crowd of about 60 people, none of whom were black. "One of the reasons why — I hate to say it — is the African Americans, they were basically users and they responded the worst off to those drugs. It's 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 of the people not remembering what's happened in the past."
Related: No High Risk: Marijuana May be Less Harmful Than Alcohol, Tobacco
Asked about his remarks Monday by The Associated Press, Alford said: "I'm not going make any more remarks about that. To me, that's neutral. Basically, I got called a racist, which I'm really not, and it's just the way people — the interpretation of people. To me, I'm trying to look at what's really the best for Kansas."
Alford said the marijuana issue is very important to him because he believes it's a gateway drug that introduces users to other drugs.
"I'm really looking for the safety of the people of Kansas, the children of Kansas, the adults of Kansas," Alford said during a brief interview.