Southwest Kansas Lawmaker Apologizes For Racist Remarks

Jan 8, 2018

Credit Public Domain

After a western Kansas lawmaker suggested black people respond to the use of marijuana differently, the Republican leader of his party condemned the remarks.

On Saturday in Garden City, Rep. Steve Alford, a Republican from Ulysses, said the drug should remain illegal because of the way he contended it affected African-Americans.

“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 of those drugs just because of their character makeup, their genetics and that,” Alford said. “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.”

At a legislative coffee with constituents on Saturday, the topic came up when Zach Worf, chairman of the Finney County Democrats, argued Kansas could draw in more tax revenue by legalizing pot sale and possession like Colorado has just a few miles away.

That’s when Alford drifted into the remarks suggesting somehow that race and the reaction to marijuana are connected, a notion far removed from any science but one that Alford suggested triggered anti-marijuana laws in the 1930s.

On Monday, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Jr., condemned Alford’s statements.

“We were taken aback by his statements, and disappointed with them and (in) no way (do) they reflect the position of the Kansas House or the policies that we will produce,” Ryckman said.

Alford issued an apology Monday afternoon.

"I was wrong," the lawmaker said in a written statement. "I regret my comments and I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have hurt."

During the Saturday coffee meeting, Rep. John Doll, a Republican from Garden City, said Kansas shouldn’t even consider legalizing recreational marijuana in light of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move last week to rescind the Obama-era policies that told federal prosecutors not to pursue federal marijuana charges in states such as Kansas' neighbor Colorado, where state law allows its possession and sale.

Legislators are expected to consider legislation that would legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes.