Knudsen Wants Fentanyl Classified As Weapon Of Mass Destruction
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general have called on President Biden to classify fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction. The 18 attorneys general demanded the president take decisive action in response to the record nationwide increase in overdose deaths related to the lethal substance.
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.
“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,” Knudsen and the others wrote to Biden. “We must not sit idly by until a terrorist chooses to inflict harm using this substance on a large group of Americans — our countrymen are already dying from this poison. We cannot wait for tragedy to strike when proactive steps can be taken now to preserve American lives. We urge you take immediate and decisive action and declare fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction.”
Due to the low cost of production, inherent lethality and vast availability of the substance, fentanyl would be an ideal choice for bad actors to use as a chemical weapon: “We are aware of scenarios that different federal and state agencies have considered utilizing and causing mass casualty events. Just two milligrams of fentanyl is needed to kill an adult, and it can easily be placed in other substances… In addition to different government agencies looking at fentanyl related scenarios, fentanyl has already been used as a weapon — the Russian army used it to end a hostage crisis two decades ago, killing more than 120 hostages in the process.”
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.
To fight illicit fentanyl in our state, Knudsen has increased the number of Montana Department of Justice narcotic and major case agents, 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.
Last month, he announced that anti-drug task forces in Montana 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.