Edmonton

Restricting access to pill presses proposed in fight against fentanyl

A new Alberta private member's bill aims to cut the manufacture of fentanyl and W-18 by restricting access to pill presses, a key tool used by dealers who sell the deadly drugs.

Private member's bill proposed by PC MLA Mike Ellis believed to be first in Canada

Calgary-West PC MLA Mike Ellis discusses his bill to fight the fentanyl crisis by restrictiing access to presses used to form the drug into tablet form. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC )

A new Alberta private member's bill aims to cut the manufacture of fentanyl and W-18 by restricting access to pill presses, a key tool used by dealers who sell the deadly drugs.

Bill 205, the Pharmacy and Drug (Pharmaceutical Equipment Control) Amendment Act, was introduced Wednesday by Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis, a former Calgary police officer.

If passed, the legislation would limit the purchase of pill presses, table machines, capsule filling machines and pharmaceutical mixers to pharmacists or people holding a licence.

"That means criminals will not be able to legally purchase a pill press for a few thousand dollars and mass compound and distribute the drugs," Ellis said.

He said police officers tell him that pill presses are always present whenever offenders are busted for manufacturing fentanyl or W-18.

The bill proposes a maximum $50,000 fine for a first offence, moving up to $375,000 for a third and every subsequent offence.  A frequent offender may also face six months jail in addition to the fine.

"Penalties may sound steep but it's important to remember criminals manufacturing this deadly drug are becoming multi-millionaires in profiting off the lives of innocent Albertans," Ellis said.

Ellis proposed the bill just as Albertans are learning more about W-18, a drug considered 100 times stronger than fentanyl. On Wednesday, law enforcement officials announced four kilograms of W-18 had been seized in an Edmonton-area drug bust last December.

Fentanyl overdoses claimed the lives of 272 Albertans in 2015.

Bill 205 has the support of the Alberta College of Pharmacists. Ellis said he also received positive feedback from Health Minister Sarah Hoffman. 

Ellis said the bill is the first of its kind in Canada.

now