SAN DIEGO – As fentanyl overdoses surge across California, San Diego leaders gathered to promote a new state bill which aims to punish dealers.

AB 367, introduced by State Assemblymember Brian Maienschein, will allow prosecutors to add three to five years on a sentence for anyone who gives or sells the illicit drug to someone else, causing death or great bodily injury.

“My bill will help California take a multifaceted approach to the fentanyl epidemic by allowing prosecutors to add this enhancement to sentences for selling, furnishing, giving away or administering a controlled substance that has resulted in serious injury or death,” Maienschein said during Friday’s press conference.

Fentanyl is a growing crisis facing lawmakers nationwide, with estimates from authorities showing that more than 70,000 people dying a year in the U.S. from overdoses.

Across San Diego County, more than 800 people died from an overdose on the drug in 2021.

One of them was 17-year-old Connor White, a student at Cathedral Catholic High School who died in May 2021.

Laura Brinker-White, who was present at the conference about AB 367, said her son took a pill for anxiety, not knowing it was laced with fentanyl. It killed him within minutes.

She said the dealer who gave her son the pill spent less than a year behind bars.

“By November (2021), which is Thanksgiving, he got to go home. I didn’t have my son on Thanksgiving,” Brinker-White said.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, who partnered with Maienschein on the bill, said Friday that there’s an greater urgency for more focused and aggressive enforcement of fentanyl distribution.

“I believe it is time for the State of California to take action and send a clear message to these dealers that if you do this in California you will not get away with it,” Gloria said. “You will be held accountable and your punishment will be swift and it will be severe.”

According to Maienschein, the bill will go to the Public Safety Committee within the next month.