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California authorities seize enough fentanyl in San Francisco to kill city’s entire population nearly three times over

Oliver Helbig/Getty Images

(SAN FRANCISCO) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced late Wednesday that the state’s highway patrol has seized enough fentanyl in San Francisco in the past six weeks to kill the city’s entire population nearly three times over.


Since the governor launched a public safety partnership between the city and state on May 1, the California Highway Patrol has seized more than 4.2 kilograms of fentanyl in the Tenderloin neighborhood and the immediate surrounding area of San Francisco. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers a lethal dose of fentanyl to be 2 milligrams. One kilogram has the potential to kill 500,000 people, and the amount seized in San Francisco is enough to potentially kill 2.1 million people, according to a press release from Newsom’s office.

Furthermore, in the first six weeks of the operation, the California Highway Patrol also seized more than 957 grams of methamphetamine, 319 grams of cocaine and 31 grams of heroin. The agency also made 92 felony and misdemeanor arrests, including on charges related to possession of fentanyl, illegal firearm possession, driving under the influence and domestic violence.

The joint public safety operation in San Francisco has brought together multiple agencies to tackle the fentanyl and opioid crisis, including the California Highway Patrol, the California National Guard, the California Department of Justice, the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. The effort is focused on “targeting fentanyl trafficking, disrupting the supply of the deadly drug in the city, and holding the operators of drug trafficking rings accountable,” according to Newsom’s office.

The governor previously said that the operation will not result in criminalizing those addicted to drugs.

“I’m proud of the CHP and CalGuard’s lifesaving efforts to shut down the Tenderloin’s poison pipeline and hold drug traffickers accountable,” Newsom said in a statement on Wednesday night. “These early results show promise and serve as a call to action: we must do more to clean up San Francisco’s streets, help those struggling with substance use and eradicate fentanyl from our neighborhoods.”

Prior to becoming California’s governor in 2019, Newsom was the mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011. The city’s Tenderloin neighborhood is rife with open-air drug use and dealing.

Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat severe pain, is the leading driver of drug overdose deaths in the United States, as well as in San Francisco. Although the number of accidental overdose deaths recorded in the city have declined in recent years, they remain high. Of the 620 deaths in 2022, 72% were attributed to fentanyl, according to data released by the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

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