“If the bill is passed and signed into law, offenses involving fentanyl-related substances would be triggered by the same quantity thresholds and subject to the same penalties as offenses involving fentanyl,” said AG Knudsen.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the legislation with the support of U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke and Rep. Matt Rosendale.
“The cause of this fentanyl scourge is clear: Mexican drug cartels, including the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, import dangerous raw materials from China, use them to produce deadly synthetic opioids at low cost, and unlawfully transport those opioids across the U.S. border,” the letter states. “The federal government’s response to this existential threat has been woefully deficient… [T]he current Administration’s abject refusal to secure our border—one of the basic duties of any government—is a direct cause of this crisis. Even more fundamentally, however, the federal government has not equipped law enforcement with the tools needed to prosecute the sale and use of illicit fentanyl analogues.”
The attorneys general note in their letter that placing fentanyl analogues on Schedule I must be done permanently. Permanent scheduling allows the criminal prosecution of anyone caught possessing, distributing, or manufacturing illicit variations of the drug—“a task previously burdensome for prosecutors”—without the uncertainty of whether the temporary authorization will expire during the prosecution.
“Permanently changing the scheduling of fentanyl analogues “would eliminate lengthy litigation and permit prosecutors to quickly remove those involved in the illicit narcotic market from the streets.” Such legislative action “would allow authorities to keep pace with clandestine labs attempting to bypass regulations by altering the chemical structures of controlled substances.”
“The fentanyl crisis has devastated many American communities, families, and lives, including those in our respective States. This national catastrophe requires a serious federal solution. Permanently scheduling fentanyl analogues as Schedule I drugs will allow the federal government to engage resources thus far underutilized in the fight against the fentanyl epidemic, putting drug cartels and traffickers on notice and saving American lives. We urge you to take up and pass the HALT Fentanyl Act as soon as possible,” the attorneys general state in the letter.
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.
According to preliminary data from the State Crime Lab, there were 74 overdose deaths involving fentanyl in 2022 compared to 49 in 2021 – a staggering increase of 51 percent.
Montana is joined by Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming in the letter led by Florida and Virginia.