AG Knudsen announces fentanyl seizures already nearly double last year’s record
HELENA – Montana’s anti-drug task forces are continuing to shatter fentanyl seizure records as nearly two times more fentanyl has already been taken off the streets so far this year compared to all of 2022 which had obliterated previous records, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen announced today.
Through September 30, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces seized a total of 346,383 dosage units of fentanyl in Montana – 1.8 times more or an 83 percent increase in the total amount seized in 2022 when 188,823 dosage units were seized. Almost 60,000 dosage units were seized between June 30 and September 30 of this year – nearly matching the 60,557 seized in all of 2021.
“Fentanyl is flooding in from Joe Biden’s wide-open southern border. Our law enforcement and drug task forces are doing an excellent job as evidenced by these numbers, but we must secure the border to stop it otherwise we’re treating a bullet wound with a band-aid,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “As Attorney General, I will continue to do everything I can to hold the Biden administration accountable for this disaster and get dangerous drugs off the streets here in Montana. Montana parents and caretakers should continue to talk to their kids about the dangers of fentanyl and remind them to never take a drug that isn’t prescribed – it can only take on pill to kill.”
These quantities are from the six RMHIDTA Montana task forces and are not all inclusive of drugs seized by all law enforcement in the state. The Montana Department of Justice’s narcotics bureau and Montana Highway Patrol criminal interdiction teams, which are overseen by Attorney General Knudsen, participate in the task forces. The task forces have also seized 59 percent more cocaine than they did last year. They have already seized 38.41 pounds of cocaine compared to 24.11 pounds in 2022. Methamphetamine seizures are steady, with taken 148 pounds off the streets in the first three quarters of the year compared to 200 all last year.
An unprecedented number of routine traffic stops by Highway Patrol troopers are also leading to drug busts. The Montana Highway Patrol reports having seized or assisted in seizing 75,972 total dosage units of fentanyl through the third quarter of 2023, including 8,468 fentanyl pills seized during cold traffic stops.
Fentanyl-linked deaths have also been on the rise in Montana. Last year, the State Crime Lab reported 77 overdose deaths involving fentanyl – an increase of 1,750 percent from 2017 when there were just four. According to preliminary data, there have been 61 documented as of early September. The statewide total is higher, as the crime lab only verifies deaths that involve an autopsy.
To combat the problem in Montana, Attorney General Knudsen secured funding for two narcotics agents at the Division of Criminal Investigation, during the 2023 Legislative Session. He also supported bills that will help combat the crisis, including imposing mandatory minimums for fentanyl traffickers and revising drugs scheduled for Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV, and Schedule V controlled substances and provides updates to each listed schedule, enabling more state-level prosecutions.
Earlier this year, he urged U.S. Senate leadership to pass the HALT Fentanyl Act to permanently schedule all current and future fentanyl analogues as Schedule I drugs to give law enforcement the tools they needed to crack down on the epidemic by stopping the flow of the dangerous drugs developed to imitate fentanyl.
In addition to increasing the number of Montana Department of Justice narcotics and major case agents, Attorney General Knudsen has added a statewide drug intelligence officer who assists local law enforcement and public health agencies and spearheaded a grant program that helped deploy two dozen drug-detecting K9s around the state. He also continues to fight the Biden administration’s disastrous border policies in federal court, engaging in multiple lawsuits to compel it to enforce existing immigration laws and secure the border. Additionally, Attorney General Knudsen has called on the Biden administration to designate drug cartels as terrorist organizations, take a tougher stance toward China and Mexico against the influx of fentanyl, and classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.