Steve Alford is a Republican member of the Kansas House of Representatives. At a coffee event over the weekend, he made horrifyingly misinformed comments about the "character" and "genetics" of African-Americans, and how they're the reason we need marijuana prohibition.
Here's what he said:
"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. And what was the reason why they did that? One of the reasons why - I hate to say it - is the African-Americans were basically users and they basically responded the worst to all those drugs because of their character makeup, their genetics. So, basically, what we're trying to do is a complete reverse, with people not remembering what's happened in the past."
Uh...wow. Watch him actually say these things:
And if you're keeping track at home, Rep. Alford also dragged up the old 'gateway drug' theory for good measure:
"My wife is a magistrate judge and she says basically anyway you say it….marijuana is an entry drug into the higher drugs."
Alford has since apologized amidst a firestorm of shock and criticism. But this tidbit from The Topeka Capital Journal warrants closer inspection:
"Before issuing his apology, Alford defended himself from accusations of racism. He initially refused to comment on the racial elements of his weekend remarks and said people should educate themselves on why anti-drug laws were enacted."
Okay, Rep. Alford - why were anti-marijuana laws enacted? Because of people like Harry Anslinger, the first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who framed his rationale for marijuana prohibition in disgusting terms like this:
"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."
Later, Richard Nixon's administration threw its resources behind the War on Drugs. Its tactics were illuminated years later in a 1994 interview with former Nixon advisor John Ehrlichman (emphasis mine):
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
So there you have it. Rep. Alford's comments are just a mildly cleaned-up version of the same racist scapegoating that prohibitionists have been using since the 1930s. And it has no place in American politics today.