FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kalispell Rep. Sprunger’s HB 791 proposes crackdown on Fentanyl traffickers in Montana
MT Attorney General Knudsen, Sprunger ask House for mandatory jail time and high fines for distributors
HELENA, Mont. (Feb. 24, 2023)—House Bill 791 introduced today by Courtenay Sprunger (R-Kalispell) is the first bill of the session that seeks to tackle the rising tide of Fentanyl flowing into Montana. Teaming with Montana Attorney General Knudsen, Representative Sprunger is seeking a mandatory minimum sentence of two years jail time, a $50,000 fine, or both, for anyone convicted of trafficking Fentanyl in the state of Montana.
Statistics surrounding the distribution of fentanyl in Montana are staggering. Since 2019, the overall Fentanyl seizures by drug task forces in Montana have increased by 10,000 percent with 207,000 dosage units taken off the streets last year. Not only is the rapidly increasing presence an overall problem, Fentanyl poses a tremendous risk to law enforcement officers and members of the public who may come into contact with fentanyl by accident. The toxicity of fentanyl can lead to overdose simply via incidental transfer through a casing the drug is held in or by residue left on a surface that someone else later contacts. By comparison to Heroin, Fentanyl is 50 times stronger according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I believe Fentanyl is a dangerous drug in a class of its own,” stated Sprunger. “When our law enforcement officers carry Narcan due to the risks of overdose from handling fentanyl in a drug seizure, when a child could be killed by leftover residue on a park table – it necessitates more serious penalties because of the imminent danger posed to all Montanans.”
The approach to penalties through HB 791 is intentionally surgical. The bill outlines very specific perimeters for what qualifies as the intent to distribute. For a charge to be brought under this statute, the convicted must be in possession of 100 or more fentanyl pills or a combined weight greater than 10 grams in a powder, solid, or liquid inclusive of any cutting agents. Sprunger worked closely with the Department of Justice to ensures that the bill hits its intended target – traffickers – and avoids looping in recreational users or those in need of treatment.
Ultimately, the goal of this bill is to temper the tremendous volume of fentanyl flowing into the state, which is rising rapidly each year.
“The threat of fentanyl to communities has skyrocketed across Montana in recent years, and it’s only getting worse as long as our border crisis remains out-of-control,” Attorney General Austin Knudsen said. “I’m thankful to Representative Sprunger for introducing this legislation that will enable us to crack down on the flow of fentanyl and the criminals who are bringing this poison into our state.”
“This is not about punishing someone struggling with an addiction; this is about stopping traffickers who victimize the most vulnerable in our communities. It’s time to send a message to traffickers – Montanans have had enough,” said Sprunger.
More information on HB 791 can be found at The Montana Legislature Bill Lookup Site. Representative Courtenay Sprunger serves on behalf of Montana House District 7, the heart of downtown Kalispell.