Fentanyl pills seized by police in Alberta. (RCMP)

B.C. moves to restrict pill presses in opioid battle

Minister Mike Farnworth says federal law doesn’t go far enough

The B.C. NDP government is following up on a long-standing promise to restrict ownership of pill presses, used by opioid traffickers to package their deadly drugs to look like pharmaceuticals.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth presented legislation Wednesday to require registration of automated pill presses, gel cap machines and pharmaceutical mixers.

Farnworth said federal legislation from 2016 only requires registration of pill-making equipment when it is imported to Canada, without limits on who can own the equipment.

The B.C. legislation requires sellers of the equipment to register and agree to a criminal record check.

“The reality is this, there are individuals out there who import these machines, who sell them here in British Columbia,” Farnworth said. “They know what they’re being used for, they know they’re being used to produce pills that kill people, and they’re getting away with it.”

RELATED: Ottawa eases restrictions on prescription heroin

Farnworth told the legislature the proposed Pill Press Related Equipment Control Act is “part of a suite of public safety initiatives we are looking at the address some of the issues of the opioid crisis, which resulted in 1,446 deaths in 2017.”

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak, president of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, said the legislation is an important step in reducing the sale of illicit drugs such as fentanyl in B.C. communities.

The province has also funded the establishment of an overdose emergency response centre, and increased funding to the B.C. Coroners Service drug death investigations team to deal with the workload and lab testing in overdose death cases.

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