Alberta PC justice critic introduces bill to crack down on fentanyl, W-18 dealers

Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis speaks to reporters after introducing Bill 205 in the Alberta Legislature on April 20, 2016. Dean Twardzik/ Global News

EDMONTON – A Calgary-West MLA introduced Bill 205 at the Alberta Legislature on Wednesday, a private member’s bill aimed at tackling a surging number of fentanyl overdoses in the province.

Mike Ellis, who also serves as the Progressive Conservative party’s justice critic, said the bill also tries to target the more general issue of opioid abuse.

READ MORE: Health minister pleased fentanyl antidote naloxone will soon be prescription-free

“Right now, our province is going through an escalating public health crisis,” Ellis told reporters after the bill was introduced. “Serious illicit drugs such as fentanyl or W-18 are growing in use and are having a devastating impact on our communities.

“In just 2015 alone, 272 Albertans died from an overdose of fentanyl – that’s an increase of 267 Albertan deaths since 2011, or nearly 46 times as many deaths.”

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: New drug W-18 ‘100 times more powerful than fentanyl’, say Calgary police

The Progressive Conservatives said Bill 205 will also address growing concern over W-18, an opioid considered 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Earlier on Wednesday, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team announced it had seized a significant amount of the deadly powder in Edmonton just a few months earlier.

READ MORE: What we know about W-18, a drug ‘100 times more powerful than fentanyl’

Bill 205 would regulate the ownership, operation and possession of pill or tablet presses, establish clear penalties for the breach of this act that will have a serious financial impact on criminals, and create a regulatory process that will outline protocols for seizure and removal of pill or tablet presses.

Those who unlawfully own or operate pill or tablet presses could face fines of up to $50,000 for a first offence, up to $375,000 for a third offence or be imprisoned for up to six months.

“The penalties may sound steep, but it’s important to remember criminals manufacturing this deadly drug are becoming multi-millionaires and profiting off the lives of innocent Albertans.”

In a release, the president of the Alberta College of Pharmacists expressed support for the new legislation.

Story continues below advertisement

“The Alberta College of Pharmacists supports this amendment to the Pharmacy and Drugs Act and any complementary strategies that can assist in curbing the production and sale of illicit drugs,” Rick Hackman said. “This reflects our commitment to working with community agencies, other health professionals, law enforcement agencies and government to make our communities safe.”

Ellis sounded optimistic that his bill would receive support from MLAs outside of his party.

“If we’re going to have anything that’s successful and we’re going to actually make an actual impact on saving lives, we want to have a buy-in from everybody,” he told reporters. “I consulted with (Health) Minister Hoffman and certainly I received some positive responses from her and obviously we’ll see in debate how it goes.”

Watch below: Global News’ ongoing coverage of opioid abuse in Alberta.


Sponsored content