State Sen. Marie Alvarado-Gil, D-Jackson, helped law enforcement officials take a significant step toward disrupting organized crime in the illicit fentanyl trade by enhancing penalties concerning fentanyl.
By a 5-0 margin, the Senate Public Safety Committee passed SB 226, which would make it a felony to possess fentanyl while carrying a loaded, operable firearm. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Until now, only methamphetamine, crack, cocaine, heroin, and PCP were explicitly listed under the law banning simultaneous possession of a loaded gun and drugs. SB 226 corrects this oversight by recognizing that fentanyl, over 50 times more potent than heroin, should be included on this list.
The passing of SB 226 out of committee is a big step for advocates of fentanyl legislation. On April 18, grieving families, public safety officials and state lawmakers gathered at the State Capitol to demand action on the California fentanyl crisis. Lawmakers berated members of the Assembly and Senate public safety committees for refusing to pass fentanyl bills out of committee.
Initially, SB 226 was set to be heard by the Senate Public Safety on March 28, but was pulled due to lack of support.
“Not including fentanyl in the original list of banned substances while simultaneously possessing a loaded firearm is an egregious omission that SB 226 will rectify,” said Alvarado-Gil. “We dug in and worked the bill because we must do everything possible to get fentanyl off our streets. This issue must be at the top of our priority list as elected officials.”
Nearly 3,000 people died of gun violence in California in 2019, averaging approximately eight people per day, both in the form of suicides and homicides.
The post-pandemic mental health crisis, drug use, and easy access to functioning firearms contribute to these anguishing statistics. It profoundly wounds families and scares first responders who bravely attempt rescues, notify families, and tend to these emergencies first-hand.
Lethal in tiny doses, fentanyl has been pouring into California via organized criminal networks, such as drug cartels. Made to mimic the look of pharmaceutical-grade opioids, criminals put the pills together with little to no quality control. Recently, organized crime has even introduced so-called “rainbow fentanyl” into the stream of commerce, meant to attract children to its candy-like appearance, and often smuggling the drug inside stuffed animals, children’s car seats, and other dangerous means attractive to children.
“This is exactly the type of common-sense legislative action needed to help address two epidemics currently impacting communities throughout the state — gun violence and fentanyl. I support SB 226 and Sen. Alvarado-Gil’s efforts to counter this public health crisis,” said Stanislaus County District Attorney Jeff Laugero.
— Senator Alvarado-Gil represents the 4th Senate District, including the counties of Stanislaus, Merced, Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Nevada, Placer, and Tuolumne.