Families of victims killed by fentanyl poisoning, turned away repeatedly by state legislative committees, launched an effort Tuesday, June 6, to take their bid to tighten drug laws directly to the voters.
Aided by Assemblymember Diane Dixon, R-Newport Beach, the families announced a campaign for legislators to place on the ballot a proposed law that would make it easier to charge repeat fentanyl dealers with homicide. The proposed ballot measure — ACA 12 — was introduced Monday through the constitutional amendment process, and would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote in the Assembly and the Senate.
Dixon and supporters challenged legislators to let the people, not the politicians, decide the fate of the proposed “Alexandra’s Law,” which would require courts to warn defendants convicted of dealing fentanyl-laced drugs that they could be charged with murder if they do it again and someone dies.
The court warning could be used by prosecutors to show that dealers selling fentanyl-tainted drugs are aware of the potential deadly consequences. Victims often do not know the drugs they are buying are boosted with fentanyl.
Alexandra’s Law has been rejected at least four times in three years by the Democrat-led public safety committees in the Assembly and Senate for fear of returning to overly broad drug policies of the past that jammed jails with people of color. The constitutional amendment is an attempt to sidestep those committees.
The proposed law is named for Alexandra Capelouto, a 20-year-old college student who died of fentanyl poisoning two days before Christmas in 2019 at the family home in Temecula.
At a Sacramento news conference Tuesday, her father, Matt Capelouto, said that it’s time to let the voters decide how to combat the tens of thousands of deaths each year attributed to the synthetic opioid, which is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.
“As some of you know, I do this quite a lot, I do this too much,” said a visibly frustrated Capelouto, speaking outside the state Capitol. “I shouldn’t have to come up here every few months to beg our representatives to do something about (the fentanyl epidemic).”
He added: “This law won’t pack our jails with those committing petty drug offenses. … It will dissuade many drug dealers from continuing to peddle their poison.”
Capelouto’s daughter was found in bed slumped over her makeup mirror after taking what she thought was Percocet.
“It’s unfathomable to me, standing here four years later and not a damn thing has been done,” Capelouto said from the podium. “I’m not a Democrat and I’m not a Republican. I’m a father who lost a (child).”
Backing the campaign at the news conference were Dixon, as well as Assemblymembers Joe Patterson, R-Rocklin, and Juan Alanis, R-Modesto. They said they were confident that the proposed amendment would receive bipartisan approval in both houses. But first the proposal must make it through the policy committees.
“This is an opportunity to let the voters decide, once and for all … this no-brainer, common-sense solution,” Dixon said.
The proposed law is modeled after the admonishment given to defendants convicted of driving under the influence, that if they do so again and someone dies, they could be charged with homicide.
Some legislators fear the proposal would sweep up a lot of dealers who didn’t know their product contained fentanyl. They also are concerned such bills would fuel racial disparity without any benefit to public safety.
Patterson disagreed, saying Tuesday that he and victims’ families won’t give up until Alexandra’s Law makes it to the ballot.
“If it doesn’t happen this year, we will be back next year,” he vowed. “We will be back every year.”
Source: Orange County Register