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Governor Newsom Announces New Legislation to Prevent Illicit Use and Trafficking of Xylazine

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing new legislation to increase criminal penalties for illicit uses of xylazine to curb the rising number of overdose deaths seen across the nation linked to the drug.

SACRAMENTO — As part of the state’s multi-pronged plan to address the opioid and overdose epidemic, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced proposed new legislation to increase penalties for the illicit trafficking of the drug xylazine, also known as  “tranq.” Xylazine – an animal tranquilizer with no approved human use – is increasingly being found in the illicit drug supply, and has been linked to rising overdose deaths across the country.

The legislation would make xylazine a controlled substance, but exempt legitimate veterinary use, making illicit trafficking of xylazine subject to increased criminal penalties while maintaining veterinarians’ access to the drug for approved use in animals.

WHAT GOVERNOR NEWSOM SAID: “Tranq poses a unique and devastating challenge in our fight against the overdose epidemic. Although California is not yet seeing tranq at the same rates as other parts of the country, this legislation will help the state stay ahead and curb dealers and traffickers, while we work to provide treatment and resources for those struggling with addiction and substance abuse.”

Xylazine-related deaths are increasing drastically in every region in the nation, more than tripling from 2020 to 2021, with the northeast seeing deaths jump from 631 to 1,281, and the west seeing them jump from 4 to 34. Xylazine can cause severe wounds and necrosis, and can lead to amputation. Xylazine alone is not an opioid, but it is often mixed with fentanyl. When a xylazine overdose is suspected, health experts recommend administering the opioid reversal agent naloxone.

KEY ADDITIONAL ACTIONS

  • The California Department of Public Health sent an All Facilities Letter notifying facilities and clinicians of the emergence of xylazine in the U.S. illicit drug supply, and what actions clinicians should take to keep patients safe.

  • The California State Board of Pharmacy and the California Veterinary Medical Board issued an alert and reminder to licensees that xylazine is subject to dangerous drugs laws, including highlighting that Board of Pharmacy licensees must keep records of dangerous drugs for at least three years.

These actions build on the Governor’s Master Plan for Tackling the Fentanyl and Opioid Crisis, which includes an expansion of CalGuard-supported operations that last year led to a 594% increase in seized fentanyl and historic levels of funding — $1 billion statewide — to crack down on the crisis, assist those struggling with substance use and increase prevention efforts. Specifically on xylazine, the state has been working with the public, and with health care partners, clinicians, and veterinarians, to proactively raise awareness of the issue and the threat it poses.

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