On the evening of March 17, 2020, a former Mexican police officer affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel crossed the U.S. border into Southern California, aiming to distribute drugs in Montana. Ricardo Ramos Medina, after picking up methamphetamine in San Diego, embarked on a 16-hour drive to Montana.
However, his journey was interrupted by a traffic stop before reaching Butte, resulting in the discovery of around 2 pounds of methamphetamine in his vehicle.
This arrest played a crucial role in dismantling a drug trafficking ring responsible for bringing significant amounts of meth and fentanyl-laced pills into Montana from Mexico over three years.
Federal prosecutors revealed that this trafficking network, partially motivated by the lucrative drug market in Montana, transported over 2,000 pounds of meth and 700,000 fentanyl-laced pills into the state.
The allure of higher profits in Montana, where pills could be sold for 20 times their price in border cities, attracted cartel associates. The impact of this drug influx is particularly severe on Montana’s Indian reservations, where crime rates and overdoses are escalating.
In these areas, cartel associates are establishing connections with Indigenous women to integrate themselves into communities and facilitate drug sales.
Additionally, traffickers entice Native Americans into becoming dealers by providing an initial supply of drugs, creating dependence and indebtedness to the cartels. Marvin Weatherwax, Jr., a leader of the Blackfeet Tribe, described the situation as if “fentanyl is raining on our reservation.”
Addressing the drug trade in Montana poses unique challenges due to the state’s vastness, making it difficult for law enforcement to police expansive areas.
Indian reservations, in particular, face additional hurdles with underfunded and understaffed tribal police forces. Some tribes have resorted to forming vigilante groups to combat drug-related crime in a desperate effort to protect their communities.