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Carlos Villapudua leads successful state legislation to help crack down on fentanyl
Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua, D-Stockton, speaks about his successful effort to get a state initiative to crack down on fentanyl adopted during a press conference on Wednesday. Behind him are, from left, San Joaquín County Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Rickman, San Joaquin County District Attorney Ron Freitas, and Assemblyman Greg Flora , R-Ripon.

STOCKTON — Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua, D-Stockton, celebrated the signing of AB 701 Wednesday with local elected officials, peace officers, and members of the community who have suffered unimaginable grief due to the fentanyl crisis.

“California took a major step forward this year in our fight to rein in the fentanyl crisis taking place on our streets,” said Villapudua during a press conference at the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office. “We could not continue with a lenient approach while the poison kill 6,000 Californians annually.’

“We could not continue wishing this problem away – we had to take action. By signing AB 701 into law, we responded with conviction to the cries of families across this state who have lost loved ones to this epidemic.”

 According to the California Department of Public Health, fentanyl was responsible for nearly 6,000 overdose deaths in California in 2021 alone.

This represented 83 percent of all opioid related overdose deaths and an increase in deaths of over 40 percent from 2020. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, and 100 times stronger than morphine. Despite all of this, current law is much more lenient on kilo-level traffickers of fentanyl compared to kilo-level traffickers of heroin and cocaine.

“The deadly fentanyl crisis has gripped our state and our country, and I’m proud to have worked across the aisle with Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua to get this bill passed and signed by the Governor,” said Assemblyman Flora, R-Ripon.

“Sentence enhancements like AB 701 are just one way we can target the logistics chain that is distributing this deadly poison to our communities.”

AB 701 adds fentanyl to the list of controlled substances – which currently includes heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base, for which sentence enhancements and stiffer penalties may be levied against dealers against kilo-levels and higher.

“Sentence enhancements have been a useful tool for law enforcement to target and prosecute traffickers of dangerous substances,” said Villapudua.

“Extending this enhancement law to fentanyl traffickers was simply common sense. Our law enforcement can only protect and serve us as well as we equip them to. That is why I’m grateful for the support from my colleagues in Sacramento and in San Joaquin County to get this policy signed into law, and I look forward to supporting our law enforcement on these issues even more in the years to come.”

AB 701 will extend proven methods to help target and prosecute dangerous traffickers and high scale dealers, without going after users and lower-level dealers. The policy will become law on January 1, 2024.

“As San Joaquin County’s District Attorney, the passage of AB701 gives me an important tool in fighting the spread of fentanyl in our communities,” said District Attorney Ron Freitas. “This year we have devoted a significant amount of resources into educating the public about the dangers of fentanyl, but we need the tools to be able to prosecute and take off the streets those who peddled this poison to our community. AB 701 lets us do just that.”