This letter is in response to the commentary, “Maryland must end the sale of flavored tobacco,” by Rev. Alvin Hathaway Sr. and Benjamin Orr.
I respect the opinions and concerns of the authors. They assert that “this is a case of racial injustice.” And, yes, it is certainly a case of racial injustice for legislators to consider passing a bill that only discriminates against products that more Black and Latino adults choose, yet they do not advocate for a ban on the products chosen by their White adult counterparts. In fact, the consequences of such a racially discriminatory ban will set the stage for more negative and counterproductive interactions between law enforcement and African- Americans.
Must I remind the authors that the U.S. Justice Department found widespread patterns of unconstitutional policing in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death from injuries sustained in police custody and that the department reached a consent decree with the city of Baltimore to reform the police department. This consent decree is still in place, and while progress is being made through proper reform measures and actions to heal community relations with police, if legislators pass SB177 and HB134 this would lead to a rise in crime, illicit trade staffed with children, police initiated stops, and racial profiling that challenges and tests police department reforms.
Having spent 34 years working drug cases for the Maryland State Police, Baltimore Police Department and the Maryland Transit Police Force, I’ve learned that bans (prohibitions) endanger the safety of communities, particularly communities of color.
We don’t need another Eric Garner, who was stopped by police while selling loose cigarettes illegally and died in police custody, and we certainly don’t need another Freddie Gray. Please render an unfavorable report for a flavored tobacco and menthols prohibition.
Major Neill Franklin (Ret.)
Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department
Former Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership