Placer DA issues response to today’s special hearing on the fentanyl crisis; calls on Legislature to hold a hearing on fentanyl poisonings next
May 24, 2023
“Today the select Committee on Fentanyl, Opioid Addiction, and Overdose Prevention and Public Safety Committee and Health Committee held an informational hearing on a variety of aspects relating to the fentanyl crisis.
“During the special hearing on fentanyl bills in the last week of April, the chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee committed to bringing all of the stakeholders to the table to discuss the issue. Unfortunately, key stakeholders, including our office, which has been in attendance at every hearing on the fentanyl crisis, were not informed of this hearing until the evening before. There was not a posted agenda or announcement of the hearing for the thousands of Californians affected by this deadly crisis. Bereaved families who have spent their precious time and money to engage in discussions with this legislature were not given sufficient notice to share their stories with the panel. Assemblymembers with fentanyl bills pending, like Assemblyman Joe Patterson from Rocklin, were not consulted on who they thought should be included in the discussion. Only after Assemblyman Patterson issued his public statement about his concerns was Laura Didier, a bereaved parent and advocate, invited to speak.
“While the panel included presentations from incredible speakers illuminating the public health aspect of this crisis, the committee’s efforts to have a balanced panel and robust discussion on public safety fell profoundly short. The lone district attorney invited to speak on the panel conflated the prosecution of dealers of deadly fentanyl with a punitive approach to those battling addiction – something California has not done in decades. The public safety component of the hearing also included a Bay Area public defender denouncing punishment for fentanyl dealers and stated that dealers of this deadly drug are merely trying to “provide for their families and support themselves.”
“Today’s hearing included robust discussions about root causes of addiction, harm reduction, the importance and effectiveness of Naloxone, and comprehensive prevention strategies – all critically important factors in the holistic approach to overcoming this crisis. But this hearing was woefully inadequate in discussing and debating the equally important component of enforcement and accountability.
“A disturbing reality of this crisis is the fact that a significant number of people have died and are dying because they are being deceived into thinking they are purchasing something they are not. Teenagers and young adults are dying at the hands of dealers who are selling straight fentanyl marketed as something else, like Oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax, Adderall, and even heroin. While it is squarely within the purview of addiction specialists and public health providers to address addiction and prevention, it is also squarely within the purview of prosecutors and law enforcement to hold dealers who sell fentanyl in our communities accountable. To exclude from this discussion the need for dealers to be held accountable is to forsake the souls lost to this crisis and to condemn more to die in the future. Eliminating common-sense solutions like fentanyl advisements and great bodily injury enhancements for dealers who poison their victims removes critical elements to a multi-pronged solution.
“We sincerely hope that the Select Committee follows through on its promise to hold more hearings on this crisis. We implore the Committee to provide a forum to discuss fentanyl poisonings and include the many advocates, legal professionals, and surviving family members who have dedicated their lives to tackling this aspect of the crisis.
“Please help us by calling on the Select Committee to host a fentanyl poisoning hearing.”
-Placer County District Attorney Morgan Gire