Abbott said the drug is being smuggled into the U.S. from the southern border with Mexico and that it’s leading to deadly cases within young adults in Texas.
The governor spoke about the drug issue in Tarrant County with Sheriff Bill Waybourn and Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“[Fentanyl] comes from the border up Interstate-35, up Interstate-45… and it is invading the Metroplex area and it has killed people in suburbs in the region we are in right now. And it is spreading very rapidly,” Abbott said.
Abbott said he is going to sign a new law that targets the manufacture and delivery of fentanyl. He said the punishment would begin as a third-degree felony, which would make the law “one of the toughest drug laws in Texas.”
In Tarrant County, the number of deaths with fentanyl listed as the contributing cause jumped from nine in 2019 to 95 in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the county recorded 10 deaths of people aged 24 and under related to the virus. County data showed 40 deaths in that same age group related to fentanyl.
The synthetic drug is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is used by drug cartels to mimic authentic prescription pain pills like oxycodone. However, just 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be a fatal dose for some individuals.
“Fentanyl seizures in Tarrant County have gone like this over the past 5 years: In 2017, there were zero seizures… In 2018, zero seizures… In 2019, zero seizures… In 2020, they seized 52 grams and in the first four months of this year… they’ve seized 137 grams,” Abbott said.
In addition to the new law, the governor also said the Texas Legislature has appropriated over $1 billion for border security efforts.