California Senate Leaders Unveil Bipartisan Legislative Package Attacking Fentanyl Crisis, Retail Crime

Opioid epidemic and drug abuse concept with a heroin syringe or other narcotic substances next to a bottle of prescription opioids. Oxycodone is the generic name for a range of opioid painkillers

By Jenna Tooley

SACRAMENTO, CA – Senate President Pro-Tem Mike McGuire (D-North Coast), alongside a bipartisan coalition of Senate members, unveiled a comprehensive legislative package this week here at the Capitol addressing the fentanyl crisis and retail and community-based crime in California.

The initiative “Working Together for a Safer California” measure represents a collaborative effort to tackle pressing issues impacting communities across the state, said McGuire, adding the legislation is the result of extensive research, stakeholder input, and feedback from Californians to address the fentanyl crisis and the rise in retail and community-based crime through a multifaceted approach.

“The plan includes measures to increase access to treatment, provide rehabilitative services for individuals within the criminal justice system, prevent the trafficking of dangerous substances, and combat retail theft and community-based crimes,” said McGuire.

The lawmaker emphasized the collective effort behind the plan, stating, “Alone, these bills are strategic ways to tackle these dual crises of fentanyl and retail theft. But collectively, they are working together for a Safer California.”

McGuire highlighted the importance of targeted policies to address retail theft and enhance the quality of life for Californians while combating the fentanyl epidemic through evidence-based treatment and prevention efforts.

“I can’t thank this bold group of bipartisan Senators enough for their dedication to move this Plan forward, and look forward to our continued partnership with Speaker Rivas, the Assembly, and Gov. (Gavin) Newsom to deliver results for Californians and our communities.”

Republican Senator Minority Leader Brian Jones (R-San Diego) echoed McGuire’s sentiments, noting the need for bipartisan collaboration in addressing urgent issues such as the fentanyl crisis and retail theft.

Jones said, “I’m optimistic about the proposals here today and look forward to continuing to work together for a Safer California.”

Democratic Senator Aisha Wahab (D-Hayward), chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, lauded the strategic approach of the Safer California Plan, emphasizing its potential to improve community health and safety.

Wahab highlighted the plan’s focus on implementing targeted consequences for crimes such as retail theft and community-based offenses, aiming to disrupt criminal activities and deter future offenses.

This plan does that by tackling crime before it begins by disrupting the sale of stolen goods in online marketplaces, increasing penalties and thereby deterring crime, providing tools for law enforcement and prosecutors, and eliminating sunset dates for organized retail theft. This package is a powerful approach, and one our communities need,” said Wahab.

Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, noted the importance of rehabilitation over incarceration in addressing cycles of crime and addiction, underscoring the significance of the initiatives: “What works is offering people resources, education, and getting people access to programs that will help them get better.”

Sheriff Robert G. Luna of Los Angeles County expressed support for the Senate’s efforts to address the fentanyl crisis and combat organized retail theft, insisting there is an urgent need to combat the proliferation of fentanyl, which poses a significant threat to community safety.

“Fentanyl related deaths in Los Angeles County are surging at an alarming rate and we need every tool available to help us combat those selling and trafficking this deadly poison. The Senate’s plan will also give law enforcement additional and precise tools to impact organized retail theft all along the criminal chain, without reversing the essential elements of criminal justice reform that was approved by the majority of Californians,” said Luna.

Diane Becton, District Attorney of Contra Costa County, said the goal of the legislation is “getting thoughtful, careful approaches to fentanyl in place, and also enacting measures that would help deter crime and strengthen our ability to prosecute brazen criminals who are harming businesses and eroding community safety.”

And, Dr. Aimee Moulin, a Professor of Emergency Medicine in Sacramento, highlighted the urgency of addressing the rising overdose deaths and the evolving drug supply fueled by fentanyl.

Moulin argued that “rapid access to evidence-based treatment is the only way to address the epidemic of substance use and overdose that will have a lasting and meaningful impact on people and our communities.”

Keith Humphreys, a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and Former White House Senior Drug Policy Advisor, commended the data-driven approach of the legislative package in addressing California’s fentanyl crisis.

Humphreys said, “I am grateful for the strong leadership of the State Senate for their efforts to save lives. We can’t move fast enough to tackle this crisis and this Plan will deploy resources and make a difference in all corners of the Golden State.”

According to Senator McGuire, fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, has contributed to a significant number of overdose deaths in California, highlighting the urgent need for effective interventions, citing the California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard documented 6,473 deaths by fentanyl in 2022. 

McGuire added that “research on the science of addiction and treatment of substance use disorders has led to research-based approaches that help people stop the cycle of addiction and lead productive lives, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports.”

The Safer California plan encompasses a series of bills authored by Senators representing various districts across the state. These representatives include “Senators Angelique Ashby (D-Sacramento), Dave Min (D-Irvine), Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa), Richard Roth (D-Riverside), Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Thomas Umberg (D-Santa Ana), Aisha Wahab (D-Hayward) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).”

“These legislative proposals aim to tackle the root causes of the fentanyl crisis and address the surge in retail and community-based crime, reflecting a concerted effort to enhance public safety and well-being in California,” said McGuire.

About The Author

Jenna Tooley is a third-year senior studying Political Science with a concentration in American Politics and minors in Global Studies and Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has a passion for social justice and advocacy work and intends on pursuing Law School in the very near future, with a potential specialization in Criminal Law in aims of dismantiling the stigma around incarcerated people and addressing the root causes of recidvism to provides incarcerated people resources and rehabilitation to independently function upon re-entry into society. Outside of her advocacy work she enjoys traveling and sightseeing, aborbing the ambiance of coffee shops, and thifting as a form of self-care.

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