Big Sky Roundup

Knudsen joins call to label fentanyl a ‘weapon of mass destruction’

By: - September 19, 2022 6:04 pm

The Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building in Helena which houses the Attorney General’s Office, the Montana Supreme Court and the state law library (Photo by Eric Seidle/ For the Daily Montanan).

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen joined a bipartisan group of 18 attorneys general last week in calling on President Joe Biden to classify fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction.

The 18 attorneys general called on the Biden administration to take” decisive action” in response to the nationwide increase in overdose deaths related to fentanyl.

According to a press release from Knudsen’s office, this action would require the Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration to coordinate a response with other agencies, including the Department of Defense—as opposed to the federal government only treating the substance as a narcotics control problem.

More than 75,000 Americans died from overdose of synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, in the 12-month period ending in February 2022. Drug overdose is now the number one killer of adults aged 18-45, according to the release.

“Treating this solely as a narcotics control problem has failed to curb the proliferation of increasing quantities of chemicals that can cause a mass casualty event. Your own DEA Administrator has called fentanyl ‘the deadliest threat [the DEA] ha[s] ever seen.’ We should treat it as such—thus bold action must be taken,” the September 14 letter to Biden reads.

The letter cites the drug’s low cost of production, inherent lethality and vast availability as to why it would be an ideal choice for bad actors to use as a chemical weapon.

Last month, Knudsen announced that anti-drug task forces in Montana had already taken 58 times more fentanyl off the streets this year than in all of 2019. Through June 30, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces, which includes the Department of Justice’s narcotics bureau and state Highway Patrol criminal interdiction teams, seized 111,611 fentanyl dosage units in Montana, compared to the 60,577 dosage units seized in all of 2021.

Attorney General Knudsen joins the attorneys general of the following states and territories in signing the letter: Florida, Connecticut, Arkansas, Guam, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.