June 5, 2017 6:17 pm
Updated: June 5, 2017 7:30 pm

MPP hopes to save lives with ban on pill press machines in Ontario

Tory MPP Michael Harris says there are many illegally manufactured pills being pressed in "the basements" of Ontario homes.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP-Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office via AP
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One Conservative MPP believes putting a ban on pill press machines may save some Ontarians from opiod overdose deaths.

Bill 126 the “Illegal Pill Press Act,” brought forward by Kitchener-Conestoga’s Michael Harris, had it’s first reading at Queens Park last week and it pushes for an amendment to Ontario’s Drug and Pharmacies Regulation Act.

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“It’s a multi-faceted problem that requires an extensive amount of solutions,” Harris told AM640 host Alan Carter, “This (bill) provides one tool in the toolbox.”

Harris says the bill is modelled after similar legislation passed in Alberta last year which prohibits anyone, other than a pharmacist or license holder, from possessing a pill press.

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READ MORE: Pressure builds to ban pill presses to fight drug overdose crisis

Alberta’s law poses fines of up to $50,000 for a first offense and a $125,000 fine, jail time or both, for a second offense.

Harris says the devices are too easy for the average Ontarian to possess and points to postings on many e-commerce sights, particularly auction and overseas retail websites, in which the devices can be obtained for $10,000 or less. He goes on to say the number of pills the devices can manufacture in one sitting is staggering.

“They’re (pills) made in the basement often in peoples’ homes who use these presses that can pound out about 15,000 pills an hour, often laced with fentanyl.”

Upcoming federal legislation is expected to place new restrictions on the import of pill presses and encapsulators, but Harris believes it falls short as it does not address the issue of pill press parts being covertly imported piece by piece into Canada.

READ MORE: Liberals, NDP try to expedite bill to help combat opioid crisis

“It’s really difficult for border agents to detect what will end up being a pill press,” said Harris. “We want to make it illegal to possess one.”

Harris says the bill has the attention of Health Minister Eric Hoskins who said “something worth looking at” following the first reading.

On April 1, Ontario hospitals began tracking opioid overdoses in the province on a weekly basis for the first time in an effort to gain a near real-time look at the growing crisis.

READ MORE: Ontario to track opioid overdoses on weekly basis for first time after spike in deaths

In 2015, Ontario’s Ministry of Heath estimated that 710 Ontarians were believed to have died from opioid-related deaths.

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