Grieving Families File California Ballot Proposal Aimed at Fentanyl Dealers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Frustrated by what they call inaction from California lawmakers, families who have lost loved ones to fentanyl poisoning took matters into their own hands on Tuesday.

Matt Capelouto, who lost his daughter Alexandra in 2019, and Chris Didier, who lost his son Zach in 2020, hand-delivered the proposed initiative to crack down on fentanyl dealers to the California Attorney General’s office in Sacramento.

“Together, supporting this ballot initiative, we can bring hope to stop the flow of this deadly drug as well as the demand,” Didier told reporters outside of the building while the sidewalk was lined with dozens of massive photos of loved ones lost to the drug.

The proposed ballot initiative would ask California voters to require courts to give fentanyl dealers the same notice given to those convicted of driving under the influence: Do it again and you could face murder charges. This is also known as Alexandra’s law. The ballot proposal would also set a new 10-to-12-year prison sentence for dealers who sell the drug if it ends up killing someone.

Capelouto, Didier, the young daughter of late rapper DMX and numerous other parents and advocates helped for a committee called Stop Fentanyl Dealers. The group will likely be cleared within the next two months to start gathering signatures. They’ll need to collect more than half a million signatures within a certain time frame to land it on the 2024 ballot.

“Passing this law is the right thing to do,” said 11-year-old Sonovah Hillman Jr, who lost her father, DMX, to a drug overdose in 2021. “I’ve taken it upon myself to be the voice for kids, I want my peers to have a shot at life.”

The filing comes months after California lawmakers blocked Alexandra’s Law in the early stages of the law-making process this year despite having support from both Democrats and Republicans. Some Democrats have argued that increasing punishment would return California to the failed war on drugs, which inflated prison populations and devastated Black and brown communities. Others have argued the drug is unlike any other, with the state’s latest statistics showing an average of 110 Californians die of fentanyl every week.

Hours after the unveiling of the proposed ballot initiative, Republican lawmakers in the Assembly attempted to force a vote on a measure that would put Alexandra’s Law in the California constitution. Democratic leaders defeated the attempt to suspend certain legislative rules to do so in a 42-18 vote, with several Democrats not voting.

“Isn’t it true there are several bills related to the sale, distribution, accountability, and network around fentanyl still to be dealt with on this floor by September 14 and in fact, this body has passed more legislation on fentanyl than any other legislative body in California’s history?” Assemblyman and Democratic Majority Leader Isaac Bryan asked the Speaker Pro Tempore, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry ahead of the vote.

“That is correct,” she replied from the dais.

The group of parents and Stop Fentanyl Dealer supporters said they’re prepared to raise the millions of dollars and spend the serious time commitment required to run a successful ballot campaign.

“What’s said about it is this money could be spent in other areas,” said Mareka Cole, who lost her son, Marek to fentanyl poisoning. “We don’t know why it’s gotten this far, but here we are, fighting every day.”

A statement from Cynthia Moreno, press secretary for California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, reads:

“Speaker Rivas takes the issue of fentanyl seriously and recognizes we are experiencing a staggering and truly heartbreaking crisis. He is working closely with his colleagues to increase penalties for high-level fentanyl dealers and dismantle criminal networks. He is focused on saving lives, by increasing access to naloxone, which rapidly reverses overdoses, and test strips that detect fentanyl. And he knows that the courts are securing homicide convictions for those responsible for fentanyl deaths. The Speaker and his colleagues are taking action, and they’re doing it this session.”

Click here to read the full article at KCRA 3