AG Knudsen: Montana on pace for another record-breaking year of fentanyl seizures

AG Knudsen: Montana on pace for another record-breaking year of fentanyl seizures

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen announced today anti-drug task forces in Montana seized 150 percent more fentanyl in the first quarter of 2024 than during the first quarter of 2023.

Through the first quarter of 2024, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces seized a total of 163,184 dosage units of fentanyl in Montana compared to 65,142 during the same time in 2023. Throughout all last year, a total of 398,000 dosage units were seized. In 2022, 188,823 dosage units were seized, and 60,557 dosages units were seized in 2021.

“We’re on pace to far surpass last year’s record-shattering number of fentanyl seizures. While I’m glad anti-drug task forces are successfully taking fentanyl off the street, it means more of this poison is making its way across the southern border and into Montana where it’s killing men, women, and children,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “I will continue to do everything in my power to fight this battle in Montana and urge President Biden to secure the border. Please, talk to your loved ones about the dangers of fentanyl and never take a drug that isn’t prescribed to you.”

These quantities are from the six RMHIDTA Montana task forces, which includes the Montana Department of Justice’s narcotics bureau and Montana Highway Patrol criminal interdiction teams, which are overseen by Attorney General Knudsen, and are not all inclusive of drugs seized by all law enforcement in the state. During the first quarter of the year, the task forces also seized 31.7 pounds of cocaine, 129.33 pounds of methamphetamine, and 116 weapons.

More traffic stops by the Montana Highway Patrol are also leading to drug busts. From January 1 through June 4, MHP reports seizing 31,000 fentanyl pills, $89,000, nine firearms, and 87.6 pounds of methamphetamine. MHP recently trained three of its drug-detecting canines to detect fentanyl to further help the Patrol get the dangerous drug off Montana streets.

The State Crime Lab preliminarily reported 22 overdose deaths involving fentanyl so far this year – in 2023 there was a total of 80. However, this number does not reflect the entire statewide total, 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 House Bill 791 which imposes a mandatory two years of jail time, a $50,000 fine, or both, for anyone convicted of selling fentanyl in Montana, and Senate Bill 67 which revises 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.

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 across the state.

Additionally, Attorney General Knudsen continues to hold the federal government accountable for their role in the fentanyl crisis. Earlier this year, he testified in a U.S. House of Representatives impeachment hearing against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his failure to enforce federal immigration law and properly secure the southern border.

Attorney General Knudsen has also called on the Biden to designate drug cartels as terrorist organizations and classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.

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