In some parts of the country, it is common for organizations attempting to combat the spread of disease to distribute clean syringes, pipes and fentanyl testing strips. However, in Texas, this practice is illegal.
What are the potential penalties for possession or distribution of these supplies?
What is harm reduction?
Harm reduction is a public health strategy that involves distributing clean syringes, pipes and fentanyl testing strips to drug users. The program aims to reduce the spread of disease by discouraging drug users from reusing pipes and needles and to prevent overdose deaths by making it possible for fentanyl users to test the potency of the drug before taking it.
Why is harm reduction illegal in Texas and what are the penalties?
While advocates believe that harm reduction encourages drug users to seek treatment, critics believe that it encourages drug use. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a Class C misdemeanor. A conviction can result in a fine of up to $500. If law enforcement finds evidence that you intend to distribute drug paraphernalia, it can charge you with a Class A misdemeanor which may result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $4,000.
The legal environment in Texas causes some drug users to avoid seeking sterile drug-use supplies and testing strips for fear of criminal charges. Harm reduction efforts are also affected, with advocates often distributing supplies in secret to avoid charges.
Both drug users and those seeking to help drug users should be aware of the potential penalties for possession of drug-using supplies in the state.