Texans in Congress lead bipartisan efforts to allow fentanyl test strips

Fentanyl test strips are made available by the Hamilton County Public Health Department during a health fair in Avondale, Ohio, on Feb. 11, 2023. (Albert Cesare/Usa Today Network Via Reuters, Albert Cesare/Usa Today Network Via Reuters)

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WASHINGTON — Texans in Congress are pushing bipartisan legislation to increase access to fentanyl testing strips after a similar effort fizzled in the Texas Legislature earlier this year.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, led several senators from both parties in introducing the Fentanyl Safe Testing and Overdose Prevention Act on Thursday to clarify, in federal law, that fentanyl testing strips are not considered to be drug paraphernalia.

U.S. Reps. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas, and Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, introduced companion legislation in May, dubbed the Secure Testing Resources Instead of Prosecuting Act, or STRIP Act.

The legislation would amend the Controlled Substances Act, which bans the use, sale, import and export of drug paraphernalia.

“Fentanyl is ravaging Texas communities, and poisonings among children and teenagers have skyrocketed in recent years given the rise in fake prescription pills containing this deadly drug,” Cornyn said in a statement. “This legislation would help prevent deaths due to fentanyl poisoning by giving people the tools to identify it, and I urge my colleagues to pass it without delay.”

Several states have made similar moves to remove testing strips from their drug paraphernalia lists.

The Texas House voted overwhelmingly in April to decriminalize fentanyl testing strips, but the Senate declined to take action on House Bill 362 in the regular session. Gov. Greg Abbott supported decriminalizing the test strips, reversing his earlier opposition.

Crockett introduced similar legislation when she was a member of the Texas House who sat on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

“Criminalizing fentanyl test strips is like outlawing water hoses during a house fire — it won’t fix the problem, and it’ll get people killed,” Crockett said in a May statement.

Fentanyl is commonly mixed with other drugs and is more than 50 times more powerful than heroin. It is odorless and tasteless, making detection nearly impossible without specialized equipment. The vast majority of U.S. drug overdoses last year were from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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