Even as states like California and Vermont move forward with efforts to relax restrictions on the recreational use of marijuana, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is still out here trying to restart a 2018 version of the War on Drugs. It’s not surprising that Sessions, the man once deemed too racist to be a federal judge, enthusiastically favors a policy that keeps disproportionate numbers of black people in jail. But while he might be wise enough to refrain from explicitly stating that his recent maneuvers are motivated, at least in part, by a long history of ignorance and bigotry, other politicians who share that view are having a tougher time.
Take Kansas state representative Steve Alford. At a recent town hall, Alford was asked about marijuana legalization in Kansas, and his response was caught on tape. It starts out as merely absurd, with Alford saying that his freedom to breathe clean air is enough to justify a regulatory scheme that sends people to jail for decades. But then he pivots to “what you really need to do is go back in the ’30s,” which is not a good way to plan policy or start a sentence, ever.
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.
According to the Kansas City Star, Alford has since apologized for his remarks, but also said that the whole thing isn’t his fault, which kind of negates the whole apology thing. Per the Star:
He said an advocate for marijuana legalization at the event “really kind of brought the whole thing up.”
“They’re the one that brought the racial part in,” he said. After repeated questions, he said: “And he came up and told me I’m a racist,” Alford said. “I’m about as far from being a racist as I can get.”
It’s not clear what metric Alford is using here to gauge if someone is racist, but one handy yardstick is “doing and saying racist things.”