If you’ve been following our blogs, then you are well aware about the increasing havoc that the synthetic opioid fentanyl is causing across the country. It is extremely addictive and extremely dangerous, leading to thousands of fatal overdoses nationwide. Well now, legislators in our home state of California are looking to take more action against those who distribute and sell the drug via a new initiative entitled Assembly Bill 1351.
The Los Angeles Times covered this latest development, highlighting the work of Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie Norris and State Senator Patricia Bates, who co-authored the Bill over in Orange County. It is worth noting that this movement is a bipartisan effort, as Petrie Norris is a registered Democrat and Bates is a registered Republican. We applaud the joint effort as it is a true demonstration that devastating addictions cross all party lines.
If enacted, Assembly Bill 1351 would reclassify fentanyl as a Schedule 1 drug in California’s criminal code, just like cocaine or heroin. This would raise the penalty stakes around it, adding fines between $20,000 and $8 million for offenders caught selling it. The hope, of course, is that this would send a powerful message and cut down on its growing availability.
Petrie Norris has been a major advocate for addiction education throughout the state, often addressing the opioid crisis in her speeches and social media posts. Speaking with The Times, she highlighted how fentanyl has become a dangerous new component of the epidemic.
“It seems like the opioid crisis is the one thing in California that has not paused for COVID-19,” Petrie Norris explained. “It is raging all across our state, leaving destruction, death and heartache in its wake … Fentanyl is now the leading cause of opioid deaths. It’s one of the most dangerous and deadly substances in the world. Just two milligrams is enough to kill.”
Both Petrie Norris and Bates held a virtual news conference discussing the crisis and the Bill last week. Their talk also included the parents of teenagers who lost their lives to fentanyl overdoses. The hope is that it would raise awareness and bring more support to their efforts. And so far the event (which is still available to view on Facebook) has been picking up traction, with hundreds of shares and comments across social media.
Senator Bates concluded the conference with some powerful words about the current legal status of fentanyl and why big changes need to happen. “It’s exponentially increasing every year, and it’s because the law does not include this narcotic,” she added. “I can’t stress enough how much we’ve been fighting to change this law. The law as it exists today has enhanced penalties for trafficking sales of narcotics for methamphetamine, for heroin, for cocaine, but it explicitly does not include fentanyl.”