U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte was in Helena Tuesday to hear from the Montana Highway Patrol and Division of Criminal Investigation about how law enforcement is dealing with a growing drug problem.
Bryan Lockerby, the director of DCI, explained to Gianforte that most illegal drugs are coming here from cartels in Mexico and are brought up through either the Washington/Oregon or Utah/Colorado corridors, where they're distributed through eastern and western Montana.
According to DCI, the most popular illegal drugs in Montana are still meth, prescription drugs, heroin and marijuana.
"Legalization creates problems around Montana," Lockerby said.
The Montana Highway Patrol brought in Lt. Jim Sanderson, a Polson-based trooper and leader of one of the two MHP interdiction teams formed in recent years to search out drug traffickers on Montana highways. The Highway Patrol spoke about the importance of federal grants in getting resources for the teams and how those teams could be used in other states as well.
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Attorney General Tim Fox pointed out that state-level law enforcement arrests often lead to federal prosecutions, causing a "ripple effect" in which more and more resources get involved in a case.
Law enforcement officials suggested to Gianforte some actions he could take back in Washington to help ease the drug issue in Montana including placing diplomatic pressure on China to stop shipping fentanyl and continuing law enforcement funding for drug enforcement.
"This is an issue with community safety," Fox said.