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Tipsheet

Montana Task Force Announces 10,800% Increase in Fentanyl Seizures Since 2019

Twitter/Port Director Michael W. Humphries

It's no secret that the fentanyl crisis — worsened and accelerated by the border crisis — is claiming lives at a devastating rate. The lethality of the drug, paired with its rapid spread around the country, means that countless millions of Americans have had their lives affected by fentanyl in some way. Still, the sheer quantities of the drug that have been seized by law enforcement remain staggering. 

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In Montana, Attorney General Austin Knudsen announced on Friday that anti-drug task forces in Big Sky Country have seen an almost 11,000 percent increase in the amount of fentanyl seizures since 2019, just before President Joe Biden took office. What's more, AG Knudsen said the amount of fentanyl seized in Montana in 2022 was three times what was seized in 2021 and instances where firearms are seized along with fentanyl shipments has also been increasing. In 2022, the task force reported 25 percent more firearm seizures than in 2021, an increase from 375 to 474.

According to Knudsen, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) task force seized 206,955 dosage units of Fentanyl, roughly 10,800 percent more than in 2019 when the number of dosage units seized was 1,900. In 2021, 60,577 dosage units were seized. 

The surge in interdictions was mirrored in an increase of fentanyl overdose deaths in Montana between 2021 and 2022. Tragically, there were 74 fentanyl-linked deaths in 2022 according to Montana's state crime lab, 51 percent more than 2021's 49 deaths. AG Knudsen noted that the actual number of fentanyl overdose deaths is higher, as the crime lab only accounts for deaths that result in autopsies. For added context, the state crime lab reported just four fentanyl overdose deaths in 2017.

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In addition to fentanyl seizures, the task force indicted more than 207 pounds of methamphetamine, 7 pounds of heroin, and 22 pounds of cocaine in 2022. 

The surge in fentanyl seizures reported by the RMHIDTA task force doesn't even account for the total amount of the deadly drug that has been interdicted in Montana since 2019, just the drug seizures made by the state Department of Justice's narcotics bureau and Highway Patrol participants in the task force. 

"The amount of illicit fentanyl coming across the southern border has skyrocketed," Attorney General Knudsen said in a statement. "This poison is killing Montanans."

"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," Knudsen noted.

Nationwide, the CDC has reported a 30 percent increase in drug overdose deaths between 2019 and 2020, a tragic statistic that increased another 15 percent between 2020 and 2021. Now, drug overdoses are a leading cause of death for young Americans.

In Montana, Attorney General Knudsen is working with and supporting state lawmakers as they seek to enact stiffer penalties for fentanyl traffickers, including mandatory minimums as one deterrent. He's also added narcotics agents to the state DOJ, increased coordination between his office and local law enforcement agencies, and deployed more drug sniffing dogs around his state to aid in detection.

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But those efforts can only do so much to protect Montanans as long as the Biden administration's lax policies continue to unleash havoc along the U.S. - Mexico border while turning all states into "border states" that now face an influx of drugs and crime. Knudsen has sued the Biden administration seeking to require the president to enforce the law and secure the southern border, but Biden and his cabinet continue to act as though the border is "secure" and under control.

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