The Texas Senate passed a “Combating Fentanyl” bill Wednesday that would open the door for state prosecutors to charge fentanyl distributors with murder.
Senate Bill 645, introduced by Sen. Joan Huffman, a Republican representing the Houston area, would change the classification of drug overdoses to “poisonings,” according to the Texas Tribune.
“We have tragically learned the extent of how dangerous fentanyl is and how even under 1 gram is so dangerous,” Huffman said Wednesday, introducing the bill. “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 bill unanimously cleared the Senate and will head to the state legislature.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott celebrated the bill’s passage in a tweet late Wednesday night.
“Here we go!” Abbott tweeted. “You kill Texans with fentanyl. You get charged with murder.”
The bill achieves one of Abbott’s legislative priorities by cracking down on the illegal passage of lethal drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border. Abbott has sought to bolster border security and increase penalties for drug violations.
The bill will increase the penalty for making or delivering fentanyl, including amounts less than 1 gram, to a third-degree felony.
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It will also increase the penalty for a lethal overdose as a result of the manufacturing or delivery of fentanyl to a second-degree felony.
A previous law Huffman authored increased penalties for manufacturing or delivering fentanyl.
The Drug Enforcement Administration warns just 2 mg of fentanyl, an incredibly small amount that could fit on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially deadly dose.
A pill can carry between .02 and 5.1 mg of fentanyl.
“One pill can kill,” the administration cautions. The DEA seized over 8.1 million fentanyl pills in 2023.
On average, nearly 300 people in the U.S. die every day to fentanyl poisonings, according to the DEA.
Gov. Abbott has also called for increasing penalties for smuggling illegal immigrants across the southern border.
“Last week, [the Texas Department of Public Safety] arrested a Houston resident in Kinney County for smuggling 12 illegal immigrants,” the governor wrote. “This is unacceptable.”
He added: “I’m calling for at least a 10-year mandatory minimum for ANY U.S. resident caught smuggling illegal immigrants in Texas.”
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The Republican governor has repeatedly criticized President Biden’s handling of the border crisis, both in terms of number of migrants and the surge of drugs being transported into the U.S.
“Biden’s open border policies have created a record-breaking crisis of illegal immigration. Texas is protecting our state—and America—in his absence,” Abbott said Tuesday.