On October 13, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 33 (AB 33) — a bill to create a statewide Fentanyl Addiction and Overdose Prevention Task Force — into law. This bill was created by District 35 Assemblymember Doctor Jasmeet Bains.
“This was one of the first promises I made when I decided to run for office,” said Dr. Bains. “As a family doctor and addiction medicine specialist, I have been fighting fentanyl on the front lines for years. We have been losing the fight against fentanyl because we do not have a coordinated multi-sector response. We need doctors, hospitals, law enforcement, public health, and public education working together. That is exactly what this task force will allow us to do.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is a major contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in California and the United States.
Dr. Bains had originally introduced the bill shortly after being sworn into office but was met with resistance when the Assembly Public Safety Committee decided against hearing any fentanyl-related bills this year.
Pushing from Dr. Bains and others got the Committee to reconsider and, eventually, a hearing was secured where AB 33 passed with bipartisan support.
“Something I’ve learned this year is that the legislative process is never easy and it is rarely predictable,” said Dr. Bains. “I was surprised when it looked like my bill would not be heard this year. I asked the Committee to reconsider, sharing some of the tragic stories I’ve encountered with my patients and how fentanyl has destroyed families. I think that made a difference in getting the bill through.”
Dr. Bains added the inclusion of xylazine or “tranq” into AB 33 as an area of study for the task force. She went on to address her colleagues on the Assembly Floor to explain the importance of this addition to the bill.
“Mark my words, if you have not heard of xylazine or tranq yet, you will by the time we return to this floor in January. Xylazine is only authorized for use in veterinary medicine, but it is increasingly being found as an adulterant in illicit drug cocktails mixed with fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin. If you thought we were not prepared for the rise of fentanyl, you have not seen anything yet,” said Dr. Bains. “Most jurisdictions do not even test for xylazine in overdose cases. It is already being circulated in most of our districts and we do not even know it is there. Xylazine has the potential to be the next fentanyl, so getting ahead of this dangerous drug is critical to prevent yet another crisis.”
In addition to AB 33, Dr. Bains also helped secure the signing of two additional fentanyl-related bills this year. She coauthored AB 701 which cracksdown on fentanyl dealers by increasing penalties by up to 25 years in prison, and she authored AB 1166 to ensure that Good Samaritans who administer naloxone to reverse a fentanyl overdose are not subject to legal liability.
In the State Budget, Dr. Bains also secured $11 million to help Kern County fight fentanyl through enhanced public education, enforcement, and health care services.
“I would like to thank both Governor Newsom and Attorney General Bonta for their support of the fentanyl task force,” said Dr. Bains. “This marks a turning point in the fight against fentanyl and the emerging fight against xylazine. Working together, we can put an end to the current crisis and prevent a new one from ever emerging.”