TOPEKA — Marijuana, fentanyl and concerns for the safety of Kansans: These are some of the issues facing the next director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Tony Mattivi, who has now been confirmed to take on the new role, fielded several questions from lawmakers in a confirmation hearing on Tuesday, KSNT reports.
The conversation waded into drug use and overdoses stemming from fentanyl. The synthetic opioid is driving a nationwide overdose epidemic, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“We were looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 fentanyl deaths last year…,” Mattivi told reporters shortly after the hearing.
Mattivi said there were also about “1,000 Narcan saves” last year. Narcan, a medication used to reverse or reduce the effects of opioids, can be used to counter decreased breathing during an overdose. Mattivi believes the drug will be a pivotal part of conversations to tackle fentanyl issues moving forward.
The new director is also getting behind Attorney General Kris Kobach’s push for stricter penalties for people that distribute fentanyl. The attorney general’s plan would create a new sentencing enhancement specifically for the crime of distribution of drugs if a death results. Additional, stiffer sentences will be sought for other related crimes on the books.
Mattivi said resources would be reoriented to focus on the investigation and reduction of fentanyl-related crimes.
“Our focus is going to be on the people that distribute that… and we’re going to go after those organizations,” Mattivi said. “We’re taking the gloves off and we’re coming after them.”
Lawmakers also brought up questions, regarding marijuana during the hearing. Neighboring states, like Missouri, have taken steps to legalize marijuana. However, Kansas has lagged behind in marijuana reform.
While marijuana is illegal in Kansas, lawmakers have eyed legislation to legalize it for medical use. Mattivi said, currently, he would not get behind the move.
“I oppose that… and the Bureau opposes it,” Mattivi said. “Gummies… anything other than vegetation… we don’t have the ability to test that right now. So that’s a huge problem for us if marijuana were to be legalized.”
As for his first order of business, Mattivi said he’ll also be advocating for money for law enforcement. He said the agency is currently facing staffing shortages, among other issues, from lack of funding.
“We’re understaffed… we’re under-resourced…we’re over assigned… our equipment is aging… we need to be able to recruit and retain good people,” Mattivi said. “That’s what we’re focused on right now.”