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    Fentanyl Dealers Given A Huge Break From California Political Leaders

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    By John Barrick

    The fentanyl crisis in this country is real. People from all walks of life are dying from overdoses in alarming numbers. California legislators had a chance to be on the forefront of this fight by passing groundbreaking legislation that would have handed down serious sentences to drug dealers who supplied fentanyl. Of course, your elected leaders decided to side with the drug dealers, and they struck down this legislation in committee.

    The message was clear. California political leaders did not care if people died from fentanyl overdoses, and they certainly didn’t care enough to punish more severely those who sold this devastating drug.

    To understand how utterly offensive to public safety the Legislature’s inaction was, we will need an overview of what fentanyl is and how damaging it is to communities across the nation.

    Fentanyl’s beginnings were medicinal. First synthesized in 1959, it was designed to work as an anesthetic for cancer patients. Most opioids at that time owed their existence to the opium poppy plant, whose properties produced a variety of effects on the brain, including pain relief and a feeling of euphoria.

    Fentanyl was a synthetic opioid, so producing it was cheaper than more traditional opioids, and it was far more potent. Fentanyl was 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Because of its potency, medical professionals could use far less fentanyl and achieve the same pain relief in their patients, which reduced cost.

    It also took far less time to produce.
    Within nine years of its creation, fentanyl was being supplied to medical facilities around the world. By 2017, fentanyl was the most widely used synthetic opioid in medicine. When used in its pure form and prescribed dosage, fentanyl was rarely fatal. However, because of its powerful opioid properties, it’s potential for abuse was great, and that was exactly what started to happen.

    Criminals began to see the potential value of selling illegally made fentanyl. Because of its potency and reduced production time, selling fentanyl was 20 times more profitable to drug cartels than heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

    More easily concealable quantities of fentanyl could also be smuggled across the border from Mexico, where the vast majority of illegally manufactured fentanyl was produced. By 2013, fentanyl started to disrupt the North American market for illegal narcotics, and every year saw an almost expediential increase in fentanyl smuggling.

    In 2021, seizures of fentanyl increased 134% just from the prior year. 11,201 pounds of fentanyl were ultimately seized last year, which was enough to kill every single American nearly seven times over.

    The dramatic increase in fentanyl smuggling was concerning enough. However, it was the deadly side effects of fentanyl that grabbed the most attention. Drug dealers began to mix fentanyl with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

    The purpose was to maximize the high one felt when it used the drugs, by also to prolong supplies of the more traditional narcotics that drug users still preferred. Thus, by “cutting” heroin or cocaine with fentanyl, the product would be cheaper to produce, and the profit margin would be considerably greater because the drug dealers would charge the same price for controlled substances cut with fentanyl.

    Naturally, the drug user would never be told that they were purchasing drugs mixed with fentanyl, so they were none the wiser.
    However, when fentanyl was mixed with other narcotics, the overall potency of the drug was maximized because the fentanyl was so much stronger than traditional opioids. Without knowing about the mixed drugs, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine users would purchase and use whatever amounts were common to get their desired high without knowing that far less of the substance was needed to achieve their usual euphoria.

    Sometimes, drug users were even told they were purchasing pure forms of heroin or cocaine, and they were actually purchasing pure forms of considerably stronger fentanyl. The end results have been catastrophic. In 2016, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues were the most common cause of overdose deaths in the United States.

    The numbers continued to be staggering. Between November 2020 to November 2021, over 100,000 deaths in the United States were related to drug overdoses, and almost all overdose deaths in the United States were due exclusively to fentanyl. That’s almost double the number of overdose deaths from 2015. Overdose deaths now outnumber car crash and gun fatalities combined.

    Ventura County has not been spared from the fentanyl overdose crisis. In 2021, Ventura County saw nearly 300 overdose deaths, a 132% increase from just five years ago.
    In 2011, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 109, which made it nearly impossible to imprison drug dealers.

    California’s efforts to de-criminalize drug crimes continued over the next several years when penalties for drug use and drug possession was reduced to such a point that many counties didn’t even bother filing those charges anymore.

    With no penalties for drug use and ridiculously low penalties for drug sales, there was nothing law enforcement could do to stem the tide of the illegal fentanyl trade and its tragic side effects.

    This year, though, legislators had a chance to step up. Criticizing the Legislature’s lack of urgency to address the fentanyl crisis, Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris of Irvine introduced Assembly Bill 2246, which would have dramatically increased the punishment for the distribution and possession of fentanyl.

    The proposal would have also allowed prosecutors to pursue a sentence of 20 years to life for any drug dealer who distributed fentanyl that resulted in a deadly overdose.
    At the same time, Senate Bill 1350 was introduced, which would have required that if a subject were convicted of selling fentanyl, they would be given notice that selling it was “extremely dangerous” and that if someone died as a result, the subject could be charged with voluntary manslaughter or murder.

    These bills would have been powerful first steps in combatting the fentanyl crisis and given prosecutors some of the tools they needed to try and keep this dangerous narcotic off the streets. Given the current slate of legislators, however, these bills never had a chance. Assembly Bill 2246 failed in committee on April 19th. One week later on April 26th, Senate Bill 1350 suffered the same fate.

    What a disheartening time it is to live in this state. Despite the overt dangers fentanyl poses to all communities, California political leaders loudly proclaimed that they did not care. How many times are we as citizens supposed to sit back and watch our elected leaders favor criminals, even murderers, over the welfare and safety of its citizens? How many people need to die before these so-called leaders learn that lives are more important than agendas?

    The only way to send that message is to vote these political leaders out of office. Let their lack of concern for the health and safety of their constituents be their legacy as they are politely shown the door in November.

     

    John Barrick

    John Barrick has worked as a prosecutor in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office for over 16 years, where he has prosecuted some of the most violent crimes committed in the county. He currently serves in the Major Crimes-Homicide Unit. He is also a 2022 candidate for District Attorney. You can visit his website at www.Barrick4DA.com for more information.

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    3 COMMENTS

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    Fentanyl Dealers Given A Huge Break From California Political Leaders - Barrick 4 DA
    26 days ago

    […] You can read this article in the Citizens Journal here. […]

    C. Collier
    C. Collier
    28 days ago

    I’m certainly not shedding any tears over dopers dying.

    Sue
    Sue
    28 days ago

    Portugal has shown a remarkable drop in opioid deaths by decriminalizing drug use and increasing drup treatment and education. https://transformdrugs.org/blog/drug-decriminalisation-in-portugal-setting-the-record-straight

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