British Columbia

B.C. moves to restrict ownership of pill presses, other drug-making equipment

Only authorized people or corporations would be allowed to own the machines under the new rules.

Only authorized people, corporations would be allowed to own machines under new rules

An RCMP officer demonstrates how a pill press machine works. The machines turn powder into compact, round tablets or pills. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

B.C. is cracking down on pill presses in a bid to ease the opioid overdose crisis gripping the province.

The provincial government has introduced legislation restricting the ownership, possession and use of equipment that can be used to make illicit drugs.

Under the new rules, only authorized individuals or corporations would be allowed to own pill presses, gel cap machines and pharmaceutical mixers, a news release said. Additionally, anyone wanting to sell the equipment would be required to register and agree to a criminal record check.

A pill press is a machine that pushes powder into a single, round pill or a tablet.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says police have asked for greater control and monitoring of pill presses in order to disrupt the supply of illicit drugs and get counterfeit pills off the streets.

The federal government banned the importation of pill presses without a licence in 2016.

That year, Abbotsford police said the presses — often seized in raids — are used to turn raw drugs like fentanyl into counterfeit tablets for sale on the streets.

The machines are capable of churning out thousands of fake pills per hour.

The RCMP believes this pill press, found in the raid of an opioid lab in B.C., was covered with powdered fentanyl. (RCMP)

More than 1,400 people died of illicit drug overdoses in B.C. last year.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy says the new legislation would make it harder for people to produce and distribute illegal drugs.

"We are losing too many people from all walks of life — friends, neighbours and loved ones — whose lives have been tragically cut short by a toxic, illegal drug supply,'' she said in a statement.

"We need to approach this problem from all sides and at all levels to save lives and prevent future tragedies.''

With files from CBC's Farrah Merali and Mike Laanela