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AG Knudsen marks Fentanyl Awareness Day with somber reminder to Montanans">

HELENA – On Fentanyl Awareness Day, Attorney General Austin Knudsen issued the following statement warning Montanans of the dangerous drug:

“Fentanyl is a poison that is killing men, women, and children at unprecedented rates and leaving behind countless heartbroken families. At the Department of Justice, we’re increasing the number of narcotics officers, giving law enforcement new tools, and instituting harsher penalties for fentanyl dealers, but we won’t solve the problem until President Biden gets the southern border under control. You can do your part to stop the epidemic by talking to your friends and family about the dangers of fentanyl – you could save a life.”

Between January and March of this year, the Montana Highway Patrol seized 21,193 fentanyl pills and 1.73 ounces of fentanyl in powder form during traffic stops.

Attorney General Knudsen reported earlier this year that fentanyl seizures by anti-drug forces in Montana have increased nearly 10,000 percent in Montana since 2019. Triple the amount of fentanyl was seized in 2022 compared to 2021, obliterating previous records. In 2022, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces seized a total of 188,823 dosage units of fentanyl in Montana, more than triple last year’s total of 60,577 dosage units. In 2019 they seized 1,900. 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.

He also commended the Legislature last week for passing bills to combat the crisis during the session and securing funding for two new narcotics agents for the Montana Department of Justice.

  • House Bill 791, sponsored by Rep. Courtenay Sprunger of Kalispell, imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of two years of jail time, a $50,000 fine, or both, for anyone convicted of trafficking fentanyl in the state of Montana. To read more about the bill, click here.
  • Senate Bill 67, sponsored by Sen. Tom McGillvary of Billings, 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. To read more about the bill, click here.
  • House Bill 437, sponsored by Rep. Katie Zolnikov of Billings, generally revises criminal drug laws to remove items related to testing drugs from the list of illegal paraphernalia and revises the definition of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that will save money and improve efficiency at the State Crime Lab. To read more about the bill, click here.

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. 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, take a tougher stance toward China and Mexico against the influx of fentanyl, and classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.