After rash of overdoses, Senate advances bill to punish Fentanyl traffickers


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A Senate panel unanimously advanced a bill on Tuesday that would significantly increase the penalties for possession of large quantities of the powerful opioid Fentanyl, a drug that has led to a wave of overdoses in Sacramento recently.

Fentanyl, which is reported to cause a euphoric high 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin, caused 29 overdoses in the Sacramento area in a seven-day period last month, nine of which were fatal, according to the Sacramento Bee. The drug killed 30 people in Orange County in 2015 and 62 people in Los Angeles County in 2014.

The bill, if approved, would add Fentanyl to a list of dangerous drugs allowing stiffer sentences based on weight in an effort to target kingpins and cartels. The bill’s narrow focus on major suppliers is what drew the support of Democrats, who were skeptical of traditional “tough on crime” policies that target low-level offenders and addicts and flood prisons.

Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, said the bill would “cut the head off the drug cartels and stop it at it’s source.” Bates, a former Los Angeles County social worker and Sen. Bob Huff of San Dimas are both sponsoring the bill.

Distribution of Fentanyl is already illegal, but this bill would add penalties per weight. For example, an amount in excess of one kilogram would add three years to a sentence, four kilograms or more would add five years and 10 kilograms or more would add 10 years.

Further action

While the bill focuses on top dealers, legislators called for further action. Sen. Loni Hancock, an Oakland Democrat who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee, said it was necessary to reach out to young people and other potential users about the effects of Fentanyl. Bates agreed that further action was needed, that “allocating resources to the rehabilitation and certainly treatment,” is “extremely important.”

“But we really have to stop the import of these very dangerous drugs,” Bates told CalWatchdog of the pending bill. “It is a public health crisis.”

Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Riverside County, who ran his own pharmacy prior to his time in the Legislature, called the drug “the nuclear bomb of street drugs.” Doing what seemed to be on-the-spot calculations, Stone said one kilogram was enough for 4 million lethal doses.

Tags assigned to this article:
pat batesfentanylBob HuffJeff StoneLoni Hancock

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