OAKLAND, Calif. - Fatal fentanyl overdoses among teenagers are on the rise across the country as Center for Disease Control and Prevention numbers show deaths annually have topped 100,000.
"Had my son known or had the knowledge that the pill that he was taking was a fake pill made of fentanyl, he would never have consumed it and would have been alive today," said Jaime Puerta, an impacted parent & President of (Victims of Illicit Drugs (VOID).
Puerta lost his 16-year-old son in April 2020 after he took what he thought was an oxycodone pill that he had purchased via social media.
"What has truly fueled this epidemic has been social media platforms who actively allow low-level drug dealers to sell their poison to unsuspecting victims," Puerta said.
The nonprofit, Families Against Fentanyl, reports teen deaths caused by fentanyl have tripled in just two years.
"The stories that I’ve heard from parents who lost their fourteen, fifteen, sixteen-year-old kids to fentanyl poisoning are heartbreaking," said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.
Petrie-Norris introduced Assembly Bill 2246, which would do the following:
- Establishes the distribution of fentanyl resulting in death a maximum penalty of 20 years to life
- Establishes possession of 2g+ of fentanyl as a felony
- Aligns fentanyl analogs as a schedule I drug.
- Adds additional enhancements for selling fentanyl in areas around kids
- Adds additional enhancements for selling on social media
The opiates are coming from China, into Mexico where shady labs make them into pill form which is then trafficked into the United States.
Wade Shannon, D.E.A Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Division says much of the drug on the streets right now can be fatal.
"Four in ten pills that were seizing the street that was tested by our DEA labs had a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl in them," said, Shannon.
Despite the danger, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, who’s sponsoring the stricter legislation, says she’s running into resistance from some fellow lawmakers who are against increasing punishment for any crime, for any reason.
"It’s not targeting folks with substance abuse. It is targeting the traffickers who are preying on our kids and they’re killing California kids," Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris said.