AG Knudsen announces shocking 10,000 percent increase of fentanyl seizures in Montana since 2019
HELENA – Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen announced today a nearly 10,000 percent increase in fentanyl seizures by anti-drug task forces in Montana since 2019. Additionally, triple the amount of fentanyl was seized in 2022 compared to 2021, obliterating previous records. The number of firearms found alongside drug shipments is also increasing.
In 2022, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces seized a total of 188,823 dosage units of fentanyl in Montana – an increase of nearly 10,800 percent since 2019 when they seized 1,900 dosage units and more than triple last year’s total of 60,577 dosage units.
“The amount of illicit fentanyl coming across the southern border has skyrocketed. This poison is killing Montanans,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “Our narcotics agents and troopers are getting more fentanyl off the roads than ever before, but we need additional tools and resources to keep it out of our communities.”
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. Attorney General Knudsen oversees the Montana Department of Justice’s narcotics bureau and Montana Highway Patrol criminal interdiction teams that participate in the task forces.
The task forces are also finding an increasing number of gun seizures – 25 percent more last year than in 2021. They seized 474 in 2022 and 375 in 2021. They also took 207.37 pounds of methamphetamine off the road in 2022, along with 7.29 pounds of heroin, and 22.25 pounds of cocaine.
Fentanyl-linked overdose deaths were also up from 2021. According to preliminary data from the State Crime Lab, there were 74 overdose deaths involving fentanyl in 2022 compared to 49 in 2021 – an increase of 51 percent. The statewide total is higher, as the crime lab only verifies deaths that involve an autopsy. Fentanyl-linked deaths confirmed by the crime lab increased 1,750 percent from 2017 when there were just four.
According to the CDC, drug overdose deaths increased 30 percent from 2019 to 2020 in the United States, a 15 percent increase from 2020 to 2021, and are now a leading cause of death for young adults. Over a ten-day period, last month, at least 28 Montanans overdosed on drugs, suspected to be fentanyl, killing eight.
To combat the drug problem in Montana, Attorney General Knudsen is advocating for increased investment in public safety at the Legislature this year to fund additional narcotics and human trafficking agents, Highway Patrol troopers, major crimes investigators, and criminal prosecutors.
He is also supporting Representative Courtenay Sprunger’s House Bill 791, which would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of two years jail time, a $50,000 fine, or both, for anyone convicted of trafficking fentanyl in Montana.
During his first two years in office, Attorney General Knudsen has increased the number of Montana Department of Justice narcotics and major case agents, 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. One of those K9s has helped take 400 fentanyl pills off the street.
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 and take a tougher stance toward China and Mexico against the influx of fentanyl and to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.