A Kansas lawmaker resigned Tuesday from his legislative chairmanships after racial comments he made drew widespread criticism.
Rep. Steve Alford stepped down as chairman of the House Committee on Children and Seniors and as vice-chair of the Child Welfare System Task Force.
Alford, a Ulysses Republican, was speaking Saturday to constituents in Garden City when a member of the audience asked about legalizing marijuana. Alford suggested because of their “character” and “genetics,” African-Americans are more susceptible to abusing drugs. He said that’s one reason drugs were outlawed in the 1930s.
“One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, the African-Americans, they were basically users, and they basically responded the worst off those drugs because of their character makeup, their genetics and that,” Alford said at the town hall meeting.
Alford apologized in a statement Monday afternoon, saying his concern about legalizing marijuana comes from drug addiction affecting his own family.
"I was wrong, I regret my comments, and I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have hurt," Alford said in the statement.
Republican House Speaker Ron Ryckman condemned the comments.
“We were taken aback by his statements and disappointed with them. In no way do they reflect the position of the Kansas House or the policies that we will produce,” Ryckman said.
— Celia Llopis-Jepsen (@Celia_LJ) January 9, 2018
A spokesperson in the speaker’s office said they are investigating how to respond.
This post was updated Tuesday at 11:50 a.m. with new information.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @KPRKoranda.