Drug Trafficking Legislation Aims at Protecting California from the Dangers of Fentanyl

Thursday, January 24, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) introduced Senate Bill 161 which would help protect Californians from the dangers of fentanyl and pursue illegal distributors. In December 2018, federal health officials named fentanyl America’s deadliest drug and has officially surpassed heroin.

In the first few weeks of 2019, various media outlets have already reported multiple overdoses and deaths across California caused by drugs laced with the powerful synthetic drug fentanyl. On January 12th, the Sacramento Bee reported that one person died and 12 others were hospitalized in Chico after allegedly overdosing on fentanyl. Two days later, the Fresno Bee reported that one victim died and two others were hospitalized in Fresno County after snorting fentanyl that the victims believed to be cocaine.

Last year, the California State Legislature passed several bills to address the opioid crisis, including Senator Bates’ SB 1109 which provides opioid preventative education. However, the legislature has yet to address the illegal drug trade that has infected California.

SB 161 would stem this illegal trade by adding fentanyl to a category of dangerous drugs, such as heroin, that are subject to penalty enhancements based on the weight an individual possesses for sale or distribution.

“As a former social worker who once worked in communities ravaged by drugs, I’m heartbroken that the state has done little to address fentanyl-related tragedies in California. From 2015 to 2017, Orange County alone has seen a 100% increase in deaths due to fentanyl.

“I’m proud to partner with new Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes in crafting SB 161 to save lives. My bill, which has already received bipartisan support, is a targeted sentence enhancement designed to go after the worst traffickers, not users who need treatment. With the fentanyl body count rising, I hope that the new Legislature and new governor will finally give law enforcement the additional tools they need to prevent further tragedies,” said Senator Bates.

Sheriff Barnes said, "The prevalence of fentanyl in California is ever increasing. This deadly opioid presents serious risks to the health and safety of residents throughout our state. The disparity in current law does not reflect the severity of this drug. We must hold accountable those that seek to profit from the addiction of others.”

As part of her ongoing efforts in fighting the fentanyl epidemic, Senator Bates introduced similar legislation in 2016, 2017, and 2018. The Senate Public Safety Committee blocked SB 1103 which was supported by San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore, the California District Attorneys Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, the California State Sheriffs’ Association and the Orange County Board of Supervisors. In 2017, SB 176 did not pass out of the Senate Public Safety Committee and, in 2016, SB 1323 died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.