Bills that would increase the criminal penalties for people who manufacture or distribute fentanyl are moving through the Texas Legislature. If they become law, those people could be charged with murder if the drug leads to someone’s death.

House Bill 6, by Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, would classify fentanyl overdoses as poisonings on death certificates. After a toxicology report and autopsy, if a medical examiner finds a lethal amount of fentanyl in someone’s system and determines that the drug causes their death, they would also be required to list “homicide” as the manner of death.

Prosecutors could then charge drug dealers with murder for providing the deadly opioid.

“On behalf of all our family members who have died innocently by taking medication laced with fentanyl, on behalf of all of our friends, we’re here today to tell the people who deal that drug: we’re going to pass a piece of legislation,” Goldman said on April 27. “We’re coming after you.”

That morning, protesters from the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance briefly gathered in the House gallery and chanted “no more drug war!” in opposition to the bill.

Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, also expressed his concerns about the proposal, which he said would intensify America’s war on drugs and contribute to the high incarceration rates of Black and Hispanic Texans. He said increasing penalties for drug usage does not help solve the problem.

“I know that everyone’s decided how they’re going to vote on this bill, and that’s fine,” Wu said. “But what I’m here to do today is speak against the continuation of the drug war and the continuing incarceration of people for drug addiction, instead of providing them the care and help they need to not be addicts.”

HB 6 passed out of the Texas House with a 124-21 vote April 28. The bill is a priority of state leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, who designated combatting the fentanyl crisis as an emergency legislative priority during his State of the State address in February.

The Texas Senate passed its version of the measure, Senate Bill 645, in March. Some form of the legislation is expected to reach Abbott’s desk before the session ends May 29.

However, HB 362, which would legalize fentanyl test strips, faces more opposition in the Senate. The bill has stalled in the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, despite bipartisan support from House lawmakers and the governor.

Fentanyl test strips are used to safely check if other drugs contain the opioid, and advocates say legalizing them would help prevent overdoses. The strips are currently considered drug paraphernalia under Texas law, meaning that anyone who uses or distributes them could be charged with a misdemeanor.

In early April, Abbott announced that Narcan, an overdose reversal medication, would be provided to law enforcement in every county in Texas.