Senate Bill 44, which aimed at offering a warning and later a murder charge for fentanyl dealers, failed to advance out of the Senate Public Safety Committee because some politicians were afraid to put more people behind bars, potentially creating another “war on drugs” scenario. 

Hannah Wiley with the Los Angeles Times reported: 

State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) said the proposal was reminiscent of the tough-on-crime era of the 1980s and ’90s that led to thousands of Black and brown people serving life sentences for drug offenses.

“Simply making it easier to prosecute someone for murder will not address or solve this problem,” Bradford said.

“I was around during the crack cocaine epidemic, and this is really very similar to the hysteria around crack cocaine,” said Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Public Safety Committee. “And we rushed to come up with a solution, instead of looking at it from both a public health crisis and a public safety crisis and to bring them both together.”

So, what does Senate Bill 44 do? 

Senate Bill 44 would require the court to warn convicted fentanyl dealers that their fake Oxycontin or Xanax pills can kill — and that if they keep selling the drugs and someone dies from a fentanyl overdose, they could be prosecuted for homicide.

Fentanyl is the leading cause of death among those ages 18-45, claiming more young lives than COVID-19, car accidents, or suicide. And in California alone, there were 5,700 fentanyl deaths in 2021.

This past year, the California State Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom supported and signed legislation that allowed private citizens to sue gun makers and sellers for deaths and injuries caused by gun violence. 

Yet, the Legislature can’t let judges offer a mere warning to drug dealers who cause more than 5,700 deaths yearly in California. If that warning is ignored, then dealers would be charged with murder as their drug is assumed responsible for the death of the user- a similar logic to the gun maker & seller lawsuit legislature. But instead of being an easy pass, this hard stance on drug control has failed to advance because legislators don’t want more people in jail. 

The message to the voters now is that Fentanyl eradication isn’t a priority, and young people ending up six feet under is the acceptable alternative!