Earlier this year, border agents made the country’s largest fentanyl bust in history, seizing 254 pounds of fentanyl and 395 pounds of methamphetamine (meth) at a routine border check. The drugs were stashed in a tractor-trailer driven by a 26 year old Mexican man. The fentanyl alone – a mere 254 pounds – could kill 100 million people.
This story is all too common and is an example of how international drug traffickers are pumping record amounts of drugs into our country. Just a few weeks ago, law enforcement in California seized 18 pounds of illicit fentanyl, enough to kill 4 million people. Last year, Nebraska state troopers seized 118 pounds of fentanyl, enough to kill 26 million people. By July of this year, border security officials had already seized as much fentanyl as they did last year in total, which is enough to kill the entire U.S. population.
And it’s not just fentanyl. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, meth seizures are climbing throughout the country because pf “high quantity loads coming in daily across the U.S. – Mexico border.” In fact, law enforcement busted two different multi-state meth trafficking rings in Marathon County and Brown County just last month.
We are facing the most devastating drug overdose epidemic in our history because of these smuggled drugs. Prescription opioids fueled a spike in overdose deaths as the opioid crisis began in the 1990s, but deaths due to prescription opioid overdoses are now falling. In contrast, drug overdose deaths continue to rise overall because deaths from illegally-manufactured fentanyl continue to creep into our communities.
This is happening because foreign drug cartels and smugglers see the drug addiction crisis as a business opportunity. Most of the illicit fentanyl in the U.S. is manufactured in China, smuggled across the border by Mexican cartels, and trafficked all over our nation. Increasingly, however, the cartels are making the deadly drugs in clandestine Mexican labs of their own because they can make unimaginable profits with less risk. The more addicts they hook, the more money they will make.
The victims of this enterprise are not just those who choose to abuse deadly drugs. The DEA says counterfeit fentanyl-infused pills stamped to look like legitimate prescriptions are flooding the country because the cartels hope to hook unsuspecting users. They also lace meth, cocaine, and heroin with fentanyl with the specific purpose to create a longer-lasting and more powerful euphoria that will keep the addicts wanting more.
In St. Croix County, we see the effects of this deadly drug trafficking scheme every day. Law enforcement throughout the area monitor and combat fentanyl, meth, and other deadly drugs that can be directly sourced back to Mexico, and the cartels’ goals are clear – to hook as many people as possible on fentanyl, their deadliest and most profitable drug. The largest single seizure of fentanyl in Minnesota for 2019 took place in mid-November, just across the border in Duluth. There was enough fentanyl recovered to kill 26,000 people. Also in November, a police officer in Rice Lake, Wis., was overcome with fentanyl during an investigation at a traffic stop. He needed to be saved with multiple doses of Narcan, which is a brand name for Naloxone, a nasal spray administered to someone overdosing on opioids.
To combat the drug abuse epidemic, we must be honest about the problem in our community and understand where we must start to solve it. One of the answers to defeating drug abuse and addiction in St. Croix County includes stopping the flow of deadly drugs across our nation’s borders, before those same drugs end up in our community.
Scott Knudson is the sheriff of St. Croix County and has served in the role since July 2017.