The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland recently met with Attorney General Brian Frosh to discuss how to protect Maryland citizens from predatory drug companies engaged in price-gouging, and ending the cash-for-freedom bail system.

Andy Pierre, Executive Director of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland (LinkedIn Photo)

Andy Pierre, Executive Director of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland (LinkedIn Photo)

Cash Bail

The state of Maryland spends a significant amount of tax dollars on housing people who have not been convicted of a crime. According to Frosh, the state spends between $100 to $150 per day to detain a given individual before their trial. In 2014, the Commission to Reform Maryland’s Pretrial System found that, “At any given time in Maryland, there are roughly 7,000 to 7,500 defendants detained in jail awaiting trial, with an average length of stay of 39 days.”

In all, the state spends approximately $252 million to $405 million per year to house people pre-trial, with bails being set 45 to 50 percent higher for minority offenders than White offenders—but less than 15 percent of those detained are violent offenders. The Attorney General and the Legislative Black Caucus members discussed a fiscally responsible and equitable way of solving this problem through legislation designed to create a state-level system that helps counties create pretrial services.

Price Gouging

Maryland is one of the few states without price gouging legislation in place to protect citizens from predatory drug-makers. A number of prescription drug companies are unethically hiking up the price of their medication, exploiting the people whose lives depend on the medication. These medications are not new, and have not been improved—the only thing that prompted the price change is that the company that makes the medication was bought out by a hedge fund. These hedge funds raise the prices of the company’s medication to astronomical levels in hopes that the market would figure out a way to bear it—all while they are selling the same medication abroad for significantly less.

A life-saving drug called naloxone (also known as Narcan) skyrocketed from $0.92 cents per dose to $2,250 per dose for no other reason than to line someone’s pockets. Frosh and Caucus members discussed their support for House Bill 666 (Public Health – Expensive Drugs – Manufacturer Reporting and Drug Price Transparency Advisory Committee) and House Bill 631 (Public Health – Essential Generic Drugs – Price Gouging — Prohibition). These bills, which are strongly supported by Congressman Elijah Cummings, are designed to protect the people by empowering the Attorney General to sue drug companies for price-gouging, and by making the drug companies be more transparent in notifying us of changes in prices.

In 1867, Representative John Farnsworth of the 39th Congress said, “The first duty of government is to provide protection to its citizen.” Today, 150 years later, the members of the Legislative Black Caucus and the Attorney General of Maryland are working together to fulfill that duty.

Medical Cannabis

Medical Cannabis is one of the Black Caucus’ top priorities, because it goes beyond discrimination; this is a matter of ensuring equal access to building generational wealth for qualified minority applicants.

Two hearings are scheduled on the Medical Cannabis Commission Reform Act:

  • Thursday, March 2 at 1:00 p.m. in Judicial Proceedings (Miller Senate Office Building 2nd Fl. East)
  • Friday March 3 at 1 p.m. in Health and Government Operations (House Office Building Room 241).

HBCUs Night

Join us on March 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Miller Senate Office Building Conference Room West for HBCUs Night in Annapolis. This free event is open to the public.
Andy-Evens Pierre is the Executive Director of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.