Drugs Seized in Minnesota Reach Record Highs

State agencies pushing for education and community support

ST. PAUL, Minn. – From prescription pills to Methamphetamine, drugs are being seized at an alarming rate in Minnesota. Illicit drug use continuously threatens the safety and health of communities across the state as lives are lost and families destroyed by their use and abuse.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) reports that in 2016, Violent Crime Enforcement Teams (VCETs) seized a record 488 pounds of meth, a 484-percent increase since meth seizures was at its lowest levels in 2009 at 83 pounds.

Prescription pill seizures, including opioids, increased by 231-percent in 2016 over the previous year.

VCETs, are partially funded by the Office of Justice Programs, and are multi-jurisdictional task forces that investigate violent crimes, gangs, and narcotics. Their presence has increased across the state in recent years, in an effort to identify major drug traffickers, focusing on high-level dealers and suppliers.

VCET Drug Seizures

Drug 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Total
Methamphetamine (Pounds) 112.63 142.96 223.46 230.32 487.71 1,197.08
Prescription (Pills) 15,829 92,778 18,398 17,717 58,578 203,300
Hashish or Marijuana Wax (Pounds) 4.54 .79 7.82 27.49 34.72 75.36
Heroin (Pounds) 6.16 18.72 12.27 18.11 10.9 66.16
Marijuana (Pounds) 1,505.5 3,136.56 1,269.26 2,268.92 2,194.11 10,374.35
Cocaine (Pounds) 12.86 15.32 11.55 12.89 37.43 90.05
Crack (Pounds) 2.75 1.91 2.45 2.1 1.3 10.51

So, who is supplying these drugs? According to the VCETs and DPS, Meth continues to flow into Minnesota, primarily from Mexico. Meth labs have been reduced from 410 in 2003 to 13 last year. Other drugs, such as fentanyl are coming in from China, and the vast majority of heroin is also making its way from Mexico.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) agents have spent more than 28,000 hours working on narcotics cases in 2016. Agents seized more than 360 pounds of meth, nearly 230 pounds of marijuana, and more than 110 pounds of cocaine.

Evidence submissions to the BCA containing fentanyl increased form 14 in 2014 and 2015 to 75 in 2016. One case reported, contained more than 2.7 liters of fentanyl; a small dose of 2 mg can be deadly.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) reports that in 2016, Minnesota had 11,555 treatment admissions for meth use, more than any drug, including opioids and marijuana. That is 72-percent higher than its peak in 2005 at 6,073 admissions before declining. Methamphetamine use is now second only to alcohol for treatment admissions in Minnesota.

As reported by the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota drug overdose deaths are more than four times as high than in the year 2000, when there were 129 drug overdose deaths. In 2015, more than half of drug-related deaths were related to prescription medications.

The leading drugs associated with deaths were opioid pain (221), heroin (114), amphetamines (83), benzodiazepines (71), and cocaine (41). Minnesota has seen a continuous rise in death rates related to all of these drug categories over the past five years.

Governor Mark Dayton has proposed several initiatives to combat substance abuse in the state. In Dayton’s budget, he proposed an ambitious plan to redesign the continuum of care for substance abuse disorder. Around 1 in 10 Minnesotans live with substance use disorder, but only 10% of those are receiving the treatment they need. With Dayton’s proposal, it will streamline the process for accessing treatment and expand care by adding care coordination, peer support services, and withdrawl management.

Dayton’s budget also included an additional $1 million per year to expand funding for VCETs. VCETs currently serve 70 counties, but need is all 87 counties in the state. Increased funding would allow local state, and tribal entities to obtain additional resources for substance abuse.

Gov. Dayton has also recommended increasing BCA funding to provide four additional narcotics special agents, a drug chemistry forensic scientist, and a criminal intelligence analyst to support the drug monitoring initiative. As a whole, this would provide more resources to support local law enforcement statewide on complex narcotics investigations.


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