Fentanyl Deaths Skyrocket in California
SACRAMENTO - In addition to the ravages of the Covid-19 Pandemic, there is another devastating epidemic plaguing California and the entire nation: the opioid epidemic. The opioid epidemic is increasingly being fueled by the rise of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which is now the leading cause of opioid related deaths. Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous and deadly substances in the world – just 2 milligrams is enough to kill. In the last three years, fentanyl deaths in California have risen by 541% and 37% of all drug-related deaths involve fentanyl.
In order to combat fentanyl trafficking and protect the lives of Californians, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris and Senator Patricia Bates have introduced AB 1351 and SB 75. These two mirrored bills aim to stop fentanyl at its source, by appropriately aligning fentanyl trafficking with cocaine and heroin in California’s criminal code.
“Drug traffickers are selling these counterfeit fentanyl pills on Snapchat and Instagram – they are preying on our children and killing our kids with impunity,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). “It is time we treat fentanyl as seriously as its consequences. By setting appropriate penalties for fentanyl trafficking, we can cut off this deadly drug at the source.”
During the press conference on Tuesday, legislators were joined by impacted families who have lost loved ones to this deadly drug.
"Fentanyl is being used to counterfeit drugs so commonly that fatality rates are increasing exponentially,” said Amy Neville of Orange County, California. “Parents can't sit back and wait any longer watching this crisis unfold — it is an emergency, and the government needs to treat it as such."
"It's not an accidental overdose when someone sells you a counterfeit pill made of poison. It's murder,” said Matt Capelouto of Riverside County.
“Three out four children are found in their beds dead by their parents due to Fentanyl Poisoning which is exactly what happened to me and my son,” said Jaime of Los Angeles County, California. “I never thought my kid would become a statistic.”
Recent reports have shown that in California drug-related fatalities have risen 50% since 2017. Much of this has been driven by the emergence of this new more potent synthetic opioid, fentanyl. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, California seized more fentanyl in 2019 than any other state in the nation.
“With fentanyl-related tragedies continuing to rise quickly, California must respond. The Legislature must treat fentanyl as the deadly drug that it is and I hope it will pass our bipartisan legislation,” said Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel). “There is no reason why California should continue to exempt fentanyl from the category of dangerous drugs that are subject to penalty enhancements.”
“Those who illicitly sell fentanyl do so with a deliberate indifference to life. We cannot let up in our efforts to hold traffickers accountable for their dangerous actions,” said Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes. “Passage of AB 1351 is an essential step for the multifaceted strategy needed to address this deadly narcotic.”
AB 1351 and SB 75 are narrowly tailored to address the trafficking of fentanyl, including transportation, sale or distribution. These bills will align fentanyl on the same level as cocaine and heroin by including it in the enhancement statute that imposes an additional term of three to twenty-five years in a case in which a defendant has been convicted of one of several specified drug commerce crimes involving fentanyl. Additionally, these bills authorize the court to impose a fine between $20,000 and $8 million for each offense.
These two bills are expected to be heard by the Assembly and Senate Public Safety Committees later this Spring.
This bill is also supported by California State Sheriffs’ Association, California Police Chiefs Association, Drug Use is Life Abuse. Partners4Wellness, Peace Officers Research Association of California, the Riverside County Sheriff and the Los Angeles County Sheriff.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
“Fentanyl is one of the deadliest illicit drugs found on streets today. All too often this drug is cut into other opioids, leading to higher rates of mortality in unaware users,” said California Police Chiefs Association President Eric R. Nunez. “To keep our streets safe, we need to increase efforts curtailing the spread of fentanyl, and AB 1351 is a step in the right direction.”
“The danger fentanyl poses to public safety is extreme and California law should appropriately recognize the harm its commerce causes,” said California State Sheriffs’ Association President and Kings County Sheriff David Robinson. “AB 1351 would update our laws to recognize the threat to our communities that fentanyl truly is and I wholeheartedly support it.”
"As the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, I am proud to support AB 1351 which is a commonsense approach to the ever-growing Fentanyl problem we are experiencing statewide,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
“Fentanyl poses a threat to public safety like no other drug we have seen. It is added to the known illicit drugs to further addiction while increasing profits, and it is used to produce counterfeit pills which are ingested by unsuspecting victims,” said Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. “The rise in deaths, overdoses, and substantial seizures of fentanyl is alarming. We must treat fentanyl like the serious threat it truly is.”
“The ongoing opioid crisis is not only affecting the community of Costa Mesa, but all of Orange County, the state, and the nation,” said Costa Mesa Police Chief Bryan Glass. “As a law enforcement agency, we continue to focus on addressing the proliferation of fentanyl in our community through targeted enforcement and seizures. I understand that the fight against the opioid epidemic is a collaborative effort and support AB 1351 as an added deterrent in this fight.”