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Regent Claims Black Skin Pigment Bonds With Drugs

March 17, 1989

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ A member of New York state’s education policy-setting board claims a pigment in black skin bonds with narcotics to help cause drug addiction.

Adelaide Sanford, in asking the state Board of Regents to devote more money to drug education and research, suggested the state should study whether a chemical link is partially responsible for the disproportionate number of black drug addicts.

″The melanin in the skin of children of African descent bonds with narcotics and causes the addiction,″ Sanford, who is black, said at a Wednesday night meeting of the board.

Sanford said through a spokesman today that her statement, reported in today’s New York Post, did not mean blacks are more prone than whites to drug addiction.

″She was just making the point that there ought to be more research and I don’t think anyone disagrees with that view,″ said Chris Carpenter, a spokesman for the state Education Department and the Regents.

Sanford, a retired elementary school teacher from Brooklyn, told the Post she learned of the possible link between melanin and drugs from K-M WR Science Consortium, a ″new age″ study group.

A spokesman for the group, Dr. Neserkar Stewart, said some research indicates there’s a link between drugs and melanin, but it can’t be said this makes blacks more prone to drug addiction.

″To say that we have a high drug addiction rate (because of melanin) ... I don’t know if such a blanket statement can be made,″ said Stewart, reached by telephone in Oakland, Calif.

Dr. Ron Simeone, director of research for the state Division of Substance Abuse, said he had never heard of such research as cited by Sanford.

Sanford was not immediately available for additional comment because she was in a meeting, Carpenter said.

New York’s education officials have drawn criticism for being slow to react to the explosion of crack addiction in New York City and elsewhere.

It’s not the first time Sanford has been at the center of controversy for racially related comments. Last year, some legislators called for her resignation after she said that lowering the dropout rates for white students, as opposed to black students, was not on her agenda.

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