Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, Friday introduced legislation targeting drug dealers who sell fentanyl to youths, contributing to a surge in drug-related deaths statewide.

“As the mother of five children, I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a child to drug poisoning,” Melendez said. “This pandemic has led to a devastating rise in fentanyl-induced deaths across California.”

She said “Alexandra’s Law” was introduced and titled in honor of 20-year-old Alexandra Capelouto of Temecula, a college student who died in December after taking the drug.

SB 350 would establish “implied malice” in connection with fentanyl fatalities, identical to the principle behind malice in driving under the influence offenses, according to Melendez. The bill would specifically require that individuals convicted of distributing controlled substances receive judicial warnings that if fentanyl they sell in the future causes a lethal overdose, they may face a homicide charge, she said.

“It’s past time to hold drug dealers accountable before more parents are forced to bury their children,” the lawmaker said. “Law enforcement needs the tools to go after drug dealers who prey on kids. Alexandra’s Law provides a valuable first step in getting this fentanyl epidemic under control and, most importantly, saving lives.”

Melendez cited statistics from Los Angeles County showing a 50% jump in drug-related deaths — most connected to fentanyl overdoses — in 2020.

San Francisco documented more than 600 fentanyl-related fatalities last year, according to Melendez. Just as telling, she said, is the use of Narcan — a counteractive inhalant that can reverse the use of an opioid overdose — by first responders in the Bay Area. The senator said there were at least 3,000 instances of Narcan sprays used on patients in 2020.

Riverside County Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari published statistics in December showing that the countywide suicide rate in the 15- to 24-year-old age group went up 19% in 2020, and much of that was attributable to accidental overdoses tied to fentanyl.

Melendez said the opioid is often being hustled on the street as Xanax, Percocet and Oxycontin.

“Users are actually receiving counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, which is formulated to be 50 times more potent than heroin,” she said.

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