BUTTE, Mont. —
It’s official. Meth is back in Montana and it’s more dangerous than ever.
Opioid abuse has gotten a lot of the headlines in recent years but in Montana, methamphetamine has slowly become the drug that law enforcement officials deal with frequently.
What used to be made in Montana labs in the eighties and nineties is now in the hands of the Mexican cartel.
When it was home grown, authorities said the methamphetamine they pulled off the streets was under 20 percent pure. State laws cracked down on homegrown labs in the early 2000’s making it harder to get the chemicals needed.
Now it’s 99 percent pure flowing through the U.S. border from super labs according to Montana Department of Justice Administrator Bryan Lockerby.
“We have seen it hidden in vehicles. We have seen it hidden in fruit. There was one case where they concealed meth in the body cavities of puppies. There are all sorts of ways they can do this," Lockerby said.
Once the drugs are in, Lockerby said it goes straight to way points like Butte, Billings, Great Falls, Missoula and Helena.
Lockerby said the drugs hit a local distributor to be spread to other Montana communities and it's coming cheap.
“Even the dealers themselves who used to be once dealers of meth have now become pound dealers. You can get a pound of meth for $7,500 dollars before it used to cost $10,000 to $20,000 to get that," Lockerby said.
According to a 2017 state report, meth makes up 31 percent of all Montana drug offenses. Meth also makes up the most number of cases investigated by Montana narcotics agents at 54 percent, triple since 2010.
Luckily, Montana Highway Patrol reports seizing just under 57 pounds of meth in 2017- more than 10 times as much as 2016 when they seized a total of six and a half pounds.
It can still be better.
That’s why Montana Attorney General Tim Fox started Aid Montana last year. It's an initiative to collaborate with private sector, federal, state and local government to find solutions.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this issue. Law enforcement will always be a component of combating this substance abuse epidemic but we certainly needs to work on education and prevention, early intervention through our health care systems, through our justice courts, our family and judge courts. We need to make sure we have treatment options available for individuals. It’s an all hands-on deck situation," Fox said.
Fox said it’s time all parties realize that meth addiction’s a disease and a fixable issue if resources are available.
In the months ahead, fox said he plans to work with stakeholders to develop more of a strategic plan to address Montana substance abuse.
He said the plan will also include recommended policy changes to the 2019 legislature.