Attorney General Candidate Jim Schultz discusses fentanyl crisis

(ABC 6 News) – Minnesota Attorney General Candidate Jim Schultz was in Rochester Wednesday meeting with area legislators and law enforcement to discuss the fight against fentanyl and prosecuting drug crimes.

Schultz is not a criminal law attorney, he worked as a private sector attorney and specialized in business law. 

But he said in a press conference that he stands with attorneys general across the country who have reached out to President Biden asking that fentanyl be declared a weapon of mass destruction.

The letter, signed by 18 attorneys general, calls it an “unorthodox solution.”

“This would be the first time in U.S. History,” Schultz said.

Classifying fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction would require the Drug Enforcement Administration to coordinate with other defense and security agencies to tackle the problem together, according to the letter. The goal is to try something innovative to curb the problem.

“We do need a coordinated, all-of-government approach, in a way that we just absolutely haven’t had to date,” Schultz said.

State legislators joined him to share how fentanyl affects their constituents.

“Living in Albert Lea, in the last few months, we have had five overdoses of fentanyl. Two of them resulting in death,” said State Representative Peggy Bennett (R, Albert Lea).

Schultz says if he wins the attorney general’s seat, he will hire more criminal prosecutors to take drug crimes to trial.

“Whether it be taking over cases, or providing advice on cases and so forth,” he said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 834 Minnesotans died of synthetic opioid overdose in 2021, which includes fentanyl. In Olmsted County, that number sits at 48. Sheriff Kevin Torgerson, says the number will climb in 2022.

“We have got to take this seriously, people are dying out there,” Torgerson said.

Torgerson, like Schultz, wants more resources from the state to prosecute drug cases.

“It’s simply that. We have got to prosecute these people,” added Torgerson.

We reached out to Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office for his response.

“My record in fighting the opioid epidemic is clear. As attorney general, I’ve investigated and sued opioid companies for the death and destruction they’ve caused in Minnesota. I’ve held them accountable by reaching nine settlements with those companies in the last two and a half years that will put hundreds of millions of dollars directly into Minnesota communities that need it most because they’ve suffered the most. I’ve also supported federal legislation to keep fentanyl out of the hands of people who abuse it while making sure cancer patients who desperately need it for legitimate medical needs can still use it to manage their pain while under strict medical supervision.  

“No one needs to tell me fentanyl is dangerous when it’s abused: I’ve heard it directly from families around Minnesota who’ve lost loved ones and shared their pain with me. What Minnesotans really need is support for cancer patients who want to decide in private with their own doctors about the treatment that’s best for them, support for effective, compassionate drug treatment that helps people and families out of addiction, and support for prosecutors who hold offenders accountable when they sell fentanyl illegally. This approach does nothing to meet any of those real needs.”