By Destiny Gurrola
SACRAMENTO, CA – A California lawmaker here last week said he was “stunned” his measure to advise those convicted of a fentanyl-related drug offense of the danger of manufacturing and distributing controlled substances and potential future criminal liability “if another person dies” from it” was defeated in the Senate Public Safety Committee for a second time.
“I’m stunned. It’s very difficult to comprehend the committee’s view on this simple admonishment. We have worked on this measure for the past six months, engaged in hundreds of conversations, and taken numerous rounds of amendments,” said SB 44 author Senator Thomas Umberg (D-Garden Grove).
Umberg added, “It’s discouraging that my colleagues don’t see the reality of the epidemic and the benefit of stopping repeat fentanyl dealers. We can’t wait for another 25,000 Californians to die from this poisoning epidemic. We simply must use every tool possible to address this crisis – prevention, education, treatment AND stopping repeat drug dealers who poison our kids.
“I can’t let this issue go. I can’t face any more parents grieving their lost daughters and sons without doing everything I can to stop this fentanyl poisoning. I will continue to return with other measures until we comprehensively deal with this scourge and the people who profit from it,” said Umberg.
According to the author’s press statement, “Approximately 107,477 people died from drug overdoses overall in the U.S. in the 12-month period ending in August 2022, making it the leading cause of injury-related deaths. California accounts for approximately 20 percent of that statistic.”
The statement added, “(M)ore people have died due to opioid overdose in the last year alone than the number of U.S. military personnel killed during the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.”
Addressing the fast rise in drug deaths for youth under 24 the release from Sen. Umberg’s office noted, “In California where fentanyl deaths were rare just five years ago, a young person under 24 is now dying every 12 hours.
“The biggest factor attributing to this danger is the undisclosed addition of fentanyl to other drugs which can, and does, often lend itself to fentanyl poisoning and death. Among teenagers, overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl tripled in the past two years, yet 73 percent have never heard of fake prescription pills being made with fentanyl.”
“I’m yet again heartbroken at the committee’s decision to not pass SB 44 today. Each of our communities have been affected by the fentanyl epidemic,” said co-author Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R- Yucaipa. “In the Inland Empire, between 80-90 percent of our opioid deaths are fentanyl-related. This is not just a crisis; it’s thousands of individual tragedies. SB 44’s advisement would have been just one prong in the multifaceted approach we must take in addressing the fentanyl crisis,”
“Let me be clear: this is not the end of our fight. I look forward to continuing this work with Sen. Umberg to make common sense reforms to ensure our public safety and public health officials have all the tools necessary to address this epidemic,” the lawmaker added.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria states, “This is a disappointing outcome on a meaningful effort to better hold dealers of illicit fentanyl accountable,” he continues, “With this poison killing 6,000 Californians in a single year, the state simply cannot — and should not — shy away from taking action. Needless delays on common-sense legislation like this ignore the reality of what’s happening in our cities and will cost more people their lives while letting dealers off the hook.”
Umberg’s office statement argued, “When Driving Under the Influence (DUI) deaths peaked in the 1990s, the public demanded swift and comprehensive action by lawmakers. The Legislature rose to this occasion by passing a series of measures exemplifying a holistic and multi-pronged approach as a response.
“By addressing DUI deaths in a comprehensive manner through education, law enforcement, and harm reduction angles, California was able to turn the escalation of DUI-deaths around and preserve public safety.”