SACRAMENTO – Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), who represents North San Diego County in the state Senate, today responded to the news that federal authorities have seized one of the nation’s largest loads of fentanyl in the greater San Diego area – enough to kill 14 million people:
“I'm grateful that federal authorities were able to seize a huge batch of fentanyl before it hit the streets. Many lives were saved because of this seizure. Over the past two years, I’ve authored bills that would have enhanced criminal penalties on illegal fentanyl distributors. Yet majority party members on the Senate Public Safety Committee blocked my bill this year because they think existing law is sufficient. I disagree.
“Given that trace amounts can quickly kill a person – including first responders without the necessary protection – it's time for the Legislature to update existing law to respond to the growing proliferation of this deadly drug. It should not take an awful tragedy of epic proportions for the Legislature to act.”
On April 25th, the Senate Public Safety Committee blocked Bates’ Senate Bill 176, which would have enhanced criminal penalties for illegal distributors of fentanyl and carfentanil. Both drugs have been linked to numerous deaths across the nation in recent years. The bill only received two “aye” votes from the committee – both from Republicans.
SB 176 would have added fentanyl and carfentanil 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. The amount of additional time in state prison would have depended on the weight, such as if the amount of fentanyl being trafficked exceeds one kilogram, the person shall receive an additional term of three years; four kilograms or more – five years; and 10 kilograms or more – 10 years. Without the change in law proposed in SB 176, those convicted under current state law are subject to lesser sentences than those who distribute heroin and cocaine.
Numerous public safety organizations supported SB 176, including the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, California State Sheriffs’ Association, California College and University Police Chiefs Association, and the California Narcotic Officers Association.
Bates was a joint author of Senate Bill 1323 last year that would have enhanced criminal penalties for illegal distributors of fentanyl. SB 1323 cleared the Senate, but was ultimately held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.