Tim Fox Has Failed Montana on Meth. Why Would We Expand His Responsibilities?

In today’s piece about the primary battle between Greg Gianforte, Tim Fox, and Al Olszewski in the Republican primary for governor, a claim about Attorney General Tim Fox stood out prominently:

He’s taken a similar approach to tackle the rising abuse of methamphetamine and opioids in the state and made a focus of testing a large backlog of sexual assault evidence kits. He wants to bring many of those same fights to the governor’s office.

I don’t know whether the decision to highlight Fox’s approach to methamphetamine came from the Fox campaign or the reporter herself, but the rising rates of meth use in Montana are far from a reason to consider Fox for governor. In fact, they offer another excellent example of how Fox has failed as Attorney General and should not be elected to higher office.

The Great Falls Tribune quoted Fox himself in 2018 when he noted that Montana was experiencing an “astronomical” growth in the rate of meth offenses, a growth that almost perfectly coincides with his tenure as Attorney General:

“The State Crime Lab’s annual report confirms what we already knew: Montana is in the midst of a substance abuse crisis,” Fox said. “The report reflects astronomical increases in methamphetamine and heroin offenses, which have placed an added strain on the Lab as well as on our courts and jails.”

From 2011 to 2017, the State Crime Lab report, the first of its kind, saw a 375 percent increase in methamphetamine found in postmortem cases; a 324 percent increase in meth found in DUI cases and a 415 percent increase in methamphetamine found in controlled substance cases.

The claim that meth cases have dramatically expanded since 2011 seems to have been politically motivated spin. The real rate of increase began when Fox took office, as this chart, produced by the Montana Department of Justice, published by the Belgrade News, and annotated by me, shows just how dramatically meth use has skyrocketed under Fox’s tenure as AG.

methrates.jpgNow, I am not naive enough to believe that the Attorney General’s office is wholly responsible for the dramatic increase in meth use and cases in Montana, but it takes a special kind of cynicism for Fox to tout his “efforts” to combat meth use when those efforts have been, in his own words, a failure of “astronomical” proportions.

Fox has done an excellent job promoting his work as Attorney General, but one has to wonder whether his efforts to reduce trafficking, another initiative he has touted, and others have been as ineffective as his efforts to control meth. Perhaps future reporting can take a deeper look at the numbers beneath the public relations work.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Yes, but he’s the least of 3 evils, if this state elects a governor who assaults legitimate reporters, Montana will again be the laughing stock of the country.

  • 500 cases , now over 2000 . Maybe it’s always been like this but fewer arrests in the past means to me they weren’t getting the job done. An example here in this town before Tim Fox, there was a meth lab or factory. The neighbors including myself complained for two years before anything happened. The house is now demolished.

    • This would make sense if the Attorney General directed local law enforcement efforts, but he doesn’t. What I am trying to understand is how Fox can take credit, when by his own words, there has been “astronomical” growth in these cases.

  • Not to play Devils advocate here, but doesn’t that reflect on the governor as well? I think Tim Fox I the leser of the republican evils I the primary. If the next governor is going to be a Republican I’d rather it be Tim Fox. He’s not necessarily one of the crazies.

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