Arizona seizes record amount of fentanyl, now leading cause of death for those ages 18 to 45

A recent seizure of $9 million worth of fentanyl pills was enough to kill half the population of Arizona.

Updated: December 24, 2021 - 11:57pm

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Authorities in Arizona said they seized $9 million worth of fentanyl pills in theit largest bust of the illicit drug, enough to kill half the state’s population.

The bust comes after a nonprofit group cites fentanyl as the leading cause of death among Americans between the age of 18 and 45. Arizona and Texas attorneys general and governors vowed to fight what they called the “lawlessness of the Biden administration,” which they argue is enabling fentanyl to be brought into the U.S. through its open border policies.

Fentanyl has become the drug of choice of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel, which controls the U.S.-Mexico border stretching from California to El Paso, Texas.

First made in China, fentanyl arrives at key Mexican Sinaloa-controlled ports where cartel operatives turn the drug into pills that look like prescription pills to sell primarily in the U.S. market brought by traffickers across the border.

Nearly 1.7 million pills of fentanyl were confiscated from storage units and homes in the Scottsdale area through a multi-agency operation involving the Attorney General’s Office, the Scottsdale Police DEA Task Force and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“This is not a recreational drug,” Scottsdale Police Department Chief Jeff Walther said. “This is death.”

Two milligrams is a lethal dose. A teaspoon holds about 5,000 milligrams, enough to kill 2,500 people. One pound of fentanyl, or 453,592 milligrams, could kill 226,796 people.

Law enforcement operatives “seized 3 million pills, 45 kilos of fentanyl powders (99 pounds), over 35 firearms, and arrested over 40 drug traffickers,” DEA Special Agent Cheri Oz said.

The amount of powder confiscated was enough to make an additional 4 million pills, AG Mark Brnovich said.

“You’re talking about more than 4 million more pills that could have been made,” Brnovich said. “I want to put that in context. We’re talking about 6 million fentanyl pills. That is enough to kill more than half the population of the state of Arizona."

Ortiz said the DEA has seized more than 9.5 million fentanyl pills in Arizona this year alone.

The Scottsdale DEA Task Force has been investigating the Sinaloa cartel for months.

The cartel is named after the Sinaloa region of Mexico, where its leaders are from. Each lab in the Sinaloa region produces an average of 20,000 doses of fentanyl every week for the U.S. market, Univision reports.

The drug bust comes as a nonprofit organization published a report citing fentanyl as the leading cause of death of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.

“Fentanyl poisoning poses a serious threat to the American public, killing more people last year than suicide, car accidents, or gun violence,” the nonprofit Families Against Fentanyl says in the report.

The report analyzed death data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, totaling 81,500 deaths from fentanyl poisoning in 2020 and 2021, and a record high of 100,000 accidental drug overdose deaths in 2021.

In 2021, fentanyl caused the death of one person every 8.57 minutes, or 175 people a day in the U.S., the nonprofit report states.

The CDC previously reported that fentanyl has become the deadliest drug in America; the fentanyl death toll increased by 1,125% between 2011 and 2017, before Biden’s open border policies.

The nonprofit group has called on the Biden administration to designate fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) in a letter also signed by several former high-level federal law enforcement directors and government officials.

According to federal statute, WMDs are partially defined as “any weapon that is designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxin or poisonous chemicals, or their precursors.”

The administration has not replied to the letter or designated the drug as a WMD. But it did issue recommendations to Congress to reduce the supply and availability of fentanyl, and President Joe Biden recently issued an executive order to address the fentanyl crisis.

“The trafficking into the United States of illicit drugs, including fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, is causing the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans annually, as well as countless more non-fatal overdoses with their own tragic human toll,” Biden said.

The order imposes sanctions on foreign nationals involved in the global illicit drug trade in the U.S. It allows the federal government to block all property and interests of sanctioned persons of interest and instructs financial institutions to prohibit those involved in the illicit drug trade from being able to transfer payments, make foreign exchange transactions, receive loans or access credit through U.S. financial institutions.

But at a recent border wall event, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the Biden administration’s open border policies are directly causing fentanyl-related deaths of Americans. The best way to cut off the flow of illicit drugs is to shut down the border and enforce immigration laws passed by Congress, Abbott said.

“Joe Biden has facilitated the death of those people by the open border policies that he has allowed to take place here in Texas,” Abbott said, referring to the nonprofit’s report. “And it must be stopped. The people who are making money off of this are the gangs and the cartels that our DPS and National Guard are working to apprehend every single day.”

Because Biden won’t enforce federal immigration law, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Brnovich continue to sue his administration. Both AGs argue that the Biden administration has given operational control of the border to the cartels and is endangering American lives.

“Attorneys General around the country are working to hold this administration accountable to the rule of law, and we will not stop our efforts,” Brnovich said.

Paxton says he won’t stop fighting to protect Americans and hold the Biden administration accountable, continuing to call on the president “to follow the law.”