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HomeNewsMontana NewsAG 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

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen announced today that anti-drug task forces in Montana have seized 150% more fentanyl in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

During the first quarter of 2024, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) task forces confiscated a total of 163,184 dosage units of fentanyl in Montana, marking a significant increase from the 65,142 dosage units seized during the same period last year. In all of 2023, a total of 398,000 dosage units were seized, while in 2022 and 2021, 188,823 and 60,557 dosage units were seized respectively.

“We’re on track to far exceed last year’s record-breaking number of fentanyl seizures. While I’m pleased that anti-drug task forces are successfully removing fentanyl from our streets, it underscores the increasing influx of this deadly substance across our southern border into Montana, where it tragically impacts individuals of all ages,” Attorney General Knudsen stated. “I remain steadfast in my commitment to combat this crisis in Montana and urge President Biden to secure our borders. I urge everyone to discuss the dangers of fentanyl with their loved ones and to refrain from using any drug not prescribed to them.”

These seizures were conducted by the six RMHIDTA Montana task forces, which include the Montana Department of Justice’s narcotics bureau and Montana Highway Patrol criminal interdiction teams, overseen by Attorney General Knudsen. These figures do not encompass drugs seized by all law enforcement agencies statewide. Additionally, during the first quarter of this year, the task forces also confiscated 31.7 pounds of cocaine, 129.33 pounds of methamphetamine, and 116 weapons.

Furthermore, increased traffic stops by the Montana Highway Patrol have resulted in additional drug seizures. From January 1 to June 4, MHP reported seizing 31,000 fentanyl pills, $89,000 in cash, nine firearms, and 87.6 pounds of methamphetamine. Recently, MHP trained three of its drug-detecting canines to detect fentanyl, enhancing their efforts to eradicate this dangerous drug from Montana communities.

The State Crime Lab has reported 22 overdose deaths involving fentanyl so far this year, compared to a total of 80 in 2023. However, these figures are preliminary and represent only deaths confirmed through autopsy by the crime lab.

To address this crisis in Montana, Attorney General Knudsen secured funding for two narcotics agents within the Division of Criminal Investigation during the 2023 Legislative Session. He also supported legislative measures such as House Bill 791, which mandates harsh penalties for fentanyl sales in Montana, and Senate Bill 67, which updates controlled substance schedules to facilitate state-level prosecutions.

In addition to expanding the Montana Department of Justice’s narcotics and major case agents, Attorney General Knudsen appointed a statewide drug intelligence officer to support local law enforcement and public health agencies. He also initiated a grant program that facilitated the deployment of two dozen drug-detecting K9 units statewide.

Attorney General Knudsen has consistently pressed the federal government for accountability regarding the fentanyl crisis. Earlier this year, he testified in a U.S. House of Representatives hearing against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, criticizing the administration’s immigration enforcement and border security measures.

Moreover, Attorney General Knudsen has called on President Biden to classify drug cartels as terrorist organizations and designate fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction, emphasizing the severity and national implications of the crisis.

By: Montana Newsroom staff

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