The Texas Senate has unanimously passed a bill that, if enacted, would allow state prosecutors to charge fentanyl distributors with murder, according to the Texas Tribune. Senate Bill 645, also known as the “Combating Fentanyl” bill, was proposed by Republican Senator Joan Huffman and aims to hold those who make, sell, or deliver fentanyl in Texas accountable for any resulting deaths.
The legislation would reclassify fentanyl overdoses as “poisonings” and increase the penalty for manufacturing and distributing less than one gram of fentanyl from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony. “If an individual dies due to fentanyl exposure, the penalty would be raised to a second-degree felony,” said Huffman.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency took to Twitter to warn the public about the dangers of fentanyl-laced fake Rx pills. “DEA lab testing reveals 6 out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake Rx pills analyzed in 2022 now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl,” the agency said. “Just 2 mg of fentanyl, a small amount that fits on a pencil tip, is considered a potentially deadly dose.”
“We have tragically learned the extent of how dangerous fentanyl is and how even under 1 gram is so dangerous.” said Huffman.
On Wednesday, Republican Senator Joan Huffman introduced the “Combating Fentanyl” bill in Texas and highlighted the dangers of fentanyl, stating, “We have tragically learned the extent of how dangerous fentanyl is and how even under 1 gram is so dangerous.” Huffman emphasized that fentanyl is entering the country and causing fatalities, and said, “It’s a fact that fentanyl is flooding our borders. It is absolutely without a doubt killing our citizens on a daily basis. And it’s time that we take a comprehensive approach to combat this.”
The proposed legislation would not only increase penalties for those found making, selling or delivering less than one gram of fentanyl, but also for those in possession of larger quantities of the opioid. For example, an individual in possession of between 200 to 400 grams of fentanyl would be charged with a first-degree felony, face 10 years to life imprisonment, and be fined up to $100,000. Similarly, those in possession of more than 400 grams would also be charged with a first-degree felony, spend up to 15 years in prison, and pay a fine of up to $250,000.
Senator Huffman pointed out the concerning rise in fentanyl-related deaths, from 333 in 2019 to 1,662 in 2021 – an almost 400% increase. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5,000 people died of overdoses between July 2021 and July 2022.
“You kill Texans with fentanyl. You get charged with murder.” stated Abbott.
The “Combating Fentanyl” bill, Senate Bill 645, introduced by Republican Senator Joan Huffman, which passed unanimously in the Texas Senate, allows prosecutors to charge individuals who make, sell or deliver fentanyl in Texas with murder. The bill also increases penalties for possession of larger amounts of fentanyl. While medical professionals who prescribe fentanyl for treatment are exempted, prosecutors must prove that the person distributing drugs knew the narcotics were laced with fentanyl to charge them with murder. Republican Governor Greg Abbott expressed support for the bill in a tweet, stating, “You kill Texans with fentanyl. You get charged with murder.”