AUSTIN, TX – Texans who provide someone with a fatal dose of fentanyl could face a murder charge under a bill that has been approved by the Texas Senate. The bill, House Bill 6, aims to classify overdoses from fentanyl as “poisonings” as part of the state’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis. The legislation passed with a 30-1 vote. Governor Greg Abbott has prioritized addressing opioid overdose deaths, and HB 6, along with Senate Bill 645, could increase penalties related to fentanyl sale and production. An amendment was introduced to include “fentanyl poisoning” as an alternative term on death certificates. The bill has received support from lawmakers, including Sen. Drew Springer, who likened fentanyl-related deaths to poisonings. HB 6 passed the House with a 124-21 vote in April, and with its approval by the Senate, it moves closer to becoming law.
Supporters of the legislation argue that enhanced penalties would hold dealers accountable and provide law enforcement with more tools to address the growing crisis in Texas. Over the span of two years, fentanyl-related overdose deaths in the state increased nearly 400% from fiscal year 2019 to 2021. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that over 5,000 people in Texas died of drug overdoses between July 2021 and July 2022. The issue has gained further attention due to the deaths of young Texans who unknowingly ingested fentanyl, mistaking it for Adderall, a medication used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The Texas Tribune reports that critics express concern that increasing penalties for fentanyl sale and production may discourage individuals from seeking help for overdose victims.