Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that is far stronger than most other medications prescribed to address pain. It is also cheaper than older narcotics like morphine and codeine. It is so strong that many individuals involved in the trafficking and manufacture of illicit substances have begun to use fentanyl as a way to cut and also strengthen the drugs they provide on the unregulated market.
Fentanyl contamination has become a major issue. In some cases, it is added to pills manufactured to look like other substances, like oxycodone. Other times, it may be powdered and added to heroin or other drugs. Many people have died of fentanyl overdoses, sometimes after unintentionally ingesting the substance. As a result of these challenges, Texas lawmakers have now taken the first step toward increasing the penalties people face for fentanyl offenses.
What would the proposed law change?
House Bill 25 passed the Texas House in a vote of 124 to 21 at the end of April 2023. Should the bill pass the state Senate, it would change state drug statutes by creating a new penalty group for fentanyl. The state would also create a new offense involving fentanyl poisoning.
Anyone convicted of contributing to someone’s death through fentanyl poisoning could face murder charges. Such charges may occur both when someone resells legal prescription medication on the unregulated market or when they provide other drugs adulterated with fentanyl that sickens the consumer. In addition to creating a new charge related to fentanyl poisoning as a form of murder, the bill would also increase the possible penalties for manufacturing and delivering fentanyl.
A crackdown likely won’t stop drug offenses
The unfortunate truth about criminal drug laws is that they often fail to address the underlying issue, which is individual addictions in those using the drugs. Those struggling with dependence on fentanyl or other opioids could end up arrested and facing years in prison for the possession of less than a gram of fentanyl should this bill pass.
The experience of incarceration and the impact that a criminal record has on someone could certainly reduce their chances of ever effectively managing their addiction. Seeking legal guidance to fight against drug charges or request adjudication in Texas drug courts are both reasonable responses to charges of fentanyl manufacturing, possession or distribution.