Texas is cracking down on opioids with some major legislation. The state Senate just passed a bill to increase penalties for the sale and production of fentanyl. Senate Bill 645 by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, will classify overdoses from the drug as “poisonings” and make it possible to charge people who make, sell, and deliver fentanyl with murder.
This bill will also up the penalties for delivering less than 1 gram of fentanyl from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony. If someone dies from an overdose resulting from the manufacturing or delivery of the drug, that penalty is escalated to a second-degree felony.
I don't know if you knew this, but even a tiny amount of fentanyl can be lethal, sometimes just 2 milligrams, depending on a person's body size, tolerance, and past usage. That's why Governor Greg Abbott and other lawmakers are pushing for harsher punishments.
Sadly, overdose deaths in Texas involving fentanyl have increased by a heartbreaking 400 percent since fiscal year 2019. In fact, the CDC is predicting that more than 5,000 people in Texas will die of drug overdoses between July 2021 and July 2022.
Sen. Huffman’s bill will also give tougher penalties for larger quantities of fentanyl. Having between 200 and 400 grams would be a first-degree felony, while having over 400 grams would also be a first-degree felony punishable by at least 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Huffman also authored a law that is a major win for first responders and law enforcement. The new bill, Senate Bill 1319, makes it mandatory for these professionals to provide overdose information to the authorities responsible for tracking drug overdoses. This information includes the date, time, and location of the overdose incident, whether an opioid antagonist like naloxone was administered, and the outcome of the patient.
The Senate approved both bills with unanimous support, except for one absent senator. They now move to the Texas House where, if approved, they will become some of the toughest anti-opioid laws in the country.