Senate Committee Blocks Sen. Bates' Bill to Address Fentanyl Drug Trafficking

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

For the third year in a row, the Senate Public Safety Committee today in a party line vote refused to pass Senate Bill 161 by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) that would help protect Californians from the dangers of fentanyl and pursue illegal distributors.
 
“It’s disappointing that the committee did not approve my bill to deter those who seek to profit from the addiction of others,” said Sen. Bates. “The victims and families of fentanyl-related tragedies are worth fighting for and I will continue to do what I can to address this issue in the Legislature. I am heartened by the fact that committee members expressed interest in finding solutions and I am committed to continuing the discussion with them.”
 
SB 161 would add fentanyl, a powerful opioid, 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. Sen. Bates worked with Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes in crafting the bill.
 
Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than pharmaceutical grade heroin and is often mixed into heroin and other drugs without the knowledge of users. Fentanyl is also cheaper to make and easier to transport than heroin, making it the emerging go-to drug for cartels. Because of fentanyl’s potency, overdoses are more likely to be fatal as it can shut down the lungs in as little as two minutes. Fentanyl can also be deadly if it becomes airborne or makes contact with human skin, putting first responders and other innocent bystanders at risk.
 
In the first few weeks of 2019, various media outlets have already reported multiple overdoses and deaths across California caused by drugs laced with 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 Sen. Bates’ SB 1109 which provides opioid preventative education. However, the Legislature has yet to address the illegal fentanyl trade that has affected California.
 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from fentanyl skyrocketed more than 1,000% from 2011 to 2016.
 
As part of her ongoing efforts in fighting the fentanyl epidemic, Sen. Bates introduced similar legislation in 2016, 2017, and 2018. The Senate Public Safety Committee blocked SB 1103 in 2018 and SB 176 in 2017. In 2016, the Assembly Appropriations Committee did not approve SB 1323.