A combination of the Biden administration’s lax immigration policy and increased demand for the potent drug has been blamed for creating a massive fentanyl epidemic across the United States that killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2021 — nearly twice as many as just two years earlier.
Now, one border state is taking action aimed at stemming the flow of the synthetic opioid into the country from Mexico.
State lawmakers in Texas passed a bill that could allow prosecutors to charge individuals involved in the production or delivery of fentanyl with murder. There is an exception included in the legislation for doctors who prescribe the powerful narcotic.
In a Senate bill that sailed through the chamber on Wednesday, fentanyl overdoses are described as “poisonings,” thereby opening up those responsible for spreading the drug to serious felony charges. Additionally, the legislation enhances the criminal penalties for anyone convicted of delivering less than a gram of fentanyl.
“We have tragically learned the extent of how dangerous fentanyl is and how even under one gram is so dangerous,” explained Sen. Joan Huffman, the Republican who introduced the bill. “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 proposal will still need to be approved by the state House before it is delivered to Gov. Greg Abbott, but he expressed optimism in a tweet touting the latest development.
Here we go!
You kill Texans with fentanyl.
You get charged with murder.
Senate passes bill opening door for prosecutors to charge fentanyl distributors with murder.https://t.co/BNInhfgoIG via @TexasTribune
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 16, 2023
The Republican governor has long been a vocal proponent for measures designed to combat the fentanyl emergency and recently called on state agencies to take part in an organized response.
“Fentanyl’s potency and deceptiveness, combined with the federal government’s unwillingness to take border security seriously, pose a grave threat to Texans,” he wrote. “We must take all appropriate actions to inform Texans of this danger and prevent additional deaths. Together we can help bring awareness to the threat posed by fentanyl and do our part to address this crisis.”
Texas has been among the states hardest hit by the crisis. In fiscal year 2019, 333 people died from fentanyl overdoses — a number that more than quintupled to 1,662 by 2021.