Fentanyl Related Bill to Restrict Pill Presses Not Passed

The Manitoba Legislative Building. (Canucks4ever83 / Wikimedia Commons)

A bill introduced by the provincial NDP to restrict ownership and possession of pill presses in Manitoba, aimed at countering the province’s fentanyl crisis, was not passed.

The bill, which was introduced on November 30th, would amend the province’s Public Health Act, and limit ownership of pill presses to pharmacists and others with a legitimate use for the devices, as identified by the legislation.

According to Rachel Morgan, press secretary for the provincial NDP, the bill was given a first reading, but debate time ran out during the second reading as last year’s session adjourned on December 2nd, and the bill did not continue further through the process of passing into law.

Though the bill could be re-introduced and voted on when the next session of the Manitoba Legislature starts on March 1st, Morgan said on the likelihood of the bill’s passing, “The passage of Opposition bills is never guaranteed. We would need the government MLAs to agree to vote for it.”

Morgan continued, “At this time, it is uncertain whether the [Pallister] government would support this bill.” Though the provincial Progressive-Conservative government has publicly spoken out on fentanyl, Health Minister Kevin Goertzen has previously said that he would prefer to see national, rather than provincial, regulation on pill presses.

In a press release on the same day of the bill’s introduction, NDP MLA Matt Wiebe claimed, “While street drugs can be distributed in various forms, pills are the preferred method for many.”

Currently, pill presses can be easily obtained by Manitobans. Simple pill presses, coming in the form of a mold and requiring the use of a hammer or rubber mallet to compress ingredients into pills, can be found for as little as $60 on websites such as eBay, while more complex, automatic pill pressing machines reach into the thousands of dollars.

Legislation similar to what the NDP has proposed has already passed in Alberta, and is also before the provincial legislature of British Columbia, where police have called for regulations on pill presses. Both provinces have been among the hardest-hit in Canada by the drug, with British Columbia averaging two deaths from fentanyl overdoses per day in 2016.

In Manitoba, fentanyl overdoses are reported almost every day, though only about 20 deaths were attributed to the drug in 2015.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 107, Issue 20, January 31, 2017.