The Texas Senate drew a line in the sand and dared Mexican drug cartels to cross it by passing a “Combating Fentanyl” bill Wednesday.
The legislation would open the door for state prosecutors to charge fentanyl dealers with murder.
Senate Bill 645 by State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) brings to life one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s key legislative priorities.
While promoting the bill, Abbott warned that, once it is passed, prosecutors will be able to charge people who make, sell, and deliver fentanyl with murder.
“We have tragically learned the extent of how dangerous fentanyl is and how even under 1 gram is so dangerous,” Huffman 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.
“So, to continue our efforts to keep this drug from hitting our communities, the committee substitute to Senate Bill 645 increases the penalty for manufacturing or delivery of less than 1 gram of fentanyl from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony.
“Furthermore, if an individual dies from a fentanyl overdose, the penalty would be enhanced to a second degree.
“Members, we’ve reached a critical point in the fentanyl crisis here in Texas.
“We have no choice but to take a comprehensive approach to what is going on.”
Abbott took to Twitter to celebrate the bill’s passage, saying:
“Here we go! You kill Texans with fentanyl. You get charged with murder.”
Here we go!
You kill Texans with fentanyl.
You get charged with murder.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 16, 2023
According to The Texas Tribune:
Huffman’s bill would also stiffen penalties for making, delivering or possessing larger quantities of fentanyl.
Having between 200 and 400 grams would be a first-degree felony, which could lead to between 10 years and life in prison as well as a fine of up to $100,000.
Having more than 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.
But if approved by lawmakers, charging suspects with murder could still be a difficult outcome for law enforcement officials.
Some of the challenges include questions about how prosecutors could prove whether the person selling or distributing the drug knew that they were selling something that included fentanyl.
And those who sell or distribute the drug aren’t usually the same people who manufacture the drugs.
“It may be that they find it’s easier to prosecute under the other statute that I passed that would make it a second-degree felony,” she said.
“But there may be extraordinary cases where it’s clear cut and the prosecutor then could have this tool to file for first-degree felony.”
Huffman made an exception in the law for medical professionals who prescribe fentanyl as treatment.