Suzette Valladares | Drug Cartels Have Lobbyists and Legislators

Suzette Martinez Valladares, Right Here, Right Now

Last month I wrote about the California State Senate Public Safety Committee’s failure to advance an important bill to help end the fentanyl crisis. This is part two to what has become the biggest public health and safety issue in California this year, and right now those who lobby for the drug cartels (yes, you read that correctly), are winning. 

If you Google “fentanyl deaths in L.A. County” you will see the L.A. County Public Health Department’s chart of “Accidental Overdose Deaths by SPA, 2018 to 2021.” On page three, there are green dots that nearly blanket all areas in Los Angeles County. 

The dots represent the 3,454 people who have died of fentanyl “overdose” during the four-year period. 

In 2018 there were 248 fentanyl deaths and in 2021 there were 1,629 deaths. More people have died of fentanyl poisoning than motor vehicle crashes in 2021 and nearly three times higher than California’s firearm injury death rate. 

The irony here is that these deaths are not what we’ve typically known as “overdoses.” Usually, people who die of drug overdoses, either intentionally or accidentally, know the substances that they are taking or mixing. But in the current drug market many of these victims don’t know that they are buying fentanyl. They think they are buying marijuana, cocaine, Percocet, Adderall, etc. 

However, drug traffickers are lacing their product with fentanyl because it is cheap way to extend their supply and it is exponentially more addictive. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and a pen tip amount is enough to kill you.

Of the 1.4 million fentanyl pills seized by the L.A. Police Department in 2021, 4 out of 10 contained a lethal dose. It is scary to think that 540,000 lethal fentanyl pills that look like candy could still be on the street. 

So, what are California leaders doing to combat this clear and present danger? Because every day that goes by without real policy solutions results in the death of more than 20 people per day. 

Currently, someone arrested for felony fentanyl drug dealing or trafficking is given a slap on the wrist and likely released. There is no required prison time, California drug courts have been decimated and even when the fentanyl drug deal has resulted in a death there is no enhancement for the arrested dealer. 

The drug cartels have infiltrated California and now those interested in protecting them spend tens of thousands for lobbyists and to influence people you elect to weaken penalties and kill legislation that will hold these fentanyl dealers and traffickers accountable. 

The pro-cartel interests and elected officials like Assembly Public Safety Committee Chair Reggie Jones Sawyer say that by locking up these fentanyl dealers California will duplicate the mass incarceration seen in the 1990s.

These claims are red herrings, completely bogus, and are met with applause by the drug cartel leaders making millions on the deaths of thousands of Californians – and the victims include young children who mistake the deadly drug for candy. 

There are a group of thoughtful Republicans and Democrats in Sacramento who know that we need to strengthen enforcement to save lives. 

Last year at least 23 people died of fentanyl in Santa Clarita. Of those deaths one was 16 years old, another 19 years old and a junior high school student overdosed and was hospitalized. 

A few weeks back several Republicans in the state Assembly attempted to force a vote of seven common-sense Democrat-authored bills that would have helped to address the fentanyl crisis. The Assembly Public Saftery Committee even held a special hearing on fentanyl. Still, over the last two weeks several good bills that would actually address the crisis were killed.

• Assembly Bill 367: Would have added more prison time for fentanyl dealers who kill or seriously injure people.

• AB 955: Would have enhanced penalties for fentanyl dealers who target children by selling drugs on social media.

• AB 675: Would have prohibited anyone in possession of fentanyl from carrying a gun. 

• AB 1058: Would have added more prison time for possessing large quantities of fentanyl.

• Senate Bill 44: Would have required judges to formally warn convicted fentanyl dealers that if they deal again and someone dies, they could face homicide charges.

Most Democrats I speak with in our community are shocked at the far-left turn their party has taken, putting cartel interests and fentanyl dealers ahead of the children and young adults dying from this deadly drug. 

Holding fentanyl dealers accountable for murder will save lives. The high-profile carnage makes it pretty clear, the California Legislature can end the deaths by holding cartels, drug dealers and traffickers accountable for the fentanyl death toll by passing stricter penalties. 

Suzette Martinez Valladares is Santa Clarita’s former assemblywoman, wife, girl mom, avid DIY’er and a monthly contributor to The Signal’s “Right, Here Right Now,” which appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.

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