Pubdate: Sun, 25 Jun 2017
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Shawn Jeffords
Page: 8


Michael Harris wants ban on pill pressing machines

A Progressive Conservative MPP wants the Ontario government to target
drug peddlers who import pill press machines.

MPP Michael Harris drafted a private member's bill which is designed
to help fight Ontario's opioid overdose epidemic by banning possession
of the pill-making devices.

The machines are a common tool of organized crime. Criminals order
them from China to produce thousands of counterfeit drugs often laced
with strong opioids like fentanyl. But while pill presses are often
found at the scene of large drug busts, offenders aren't slapped with
any extra penalty for possessing them.

"These are actual killing machines," Harris said. "They're taking the
lives on Ontarians every day."

Harris' bill would make it illegal for people to possess pill presses
unless they're legitimate users, like pharmacists. If passed, the bill
would ensure offenders are jailed with a first offence carrying a
six-month prison term.

"If you're a scum drug dealer that has one in his basement, you're
going to go to jail," he said.

A pill press crackdown is currently being considered by the federal
government. Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott is looking at
banning the importation of pill presses as part of a strategy to fight
opioid deaths.

In Alberta, the NDP government adopted a pill press ban proposed by a
Conservative MLA in a private member's bill.

The rate of opioid-related deaths in Ontario has almost quadrupled
over the last 25 years, skyrocketing to 734 in 2015 from 144 in 1991,
according to a report published in April by the Ontario Drug Policy
Research Network.

Fentanyl's contribution to opioid-related deaths soared by 548%
between 2006 and 2015, and it is now the most common cause of lethal
overdoses among this class of powerful painkillers. Fentanyl can be
obtained in both prescribed patches and illicitly manufactured pills,
but the latter have only been around for the last couple of years.

Ontario's Liberal government has not said if it will support Harris'
bill. Health Minister Eric Hoskins has announced a number of
initiatives aimed at addressing the opioid crisis.

"Since the launch of Ontario's strategy to prevent opioid addiction
and overdoses, my ministry has been consulting widely with people
impacted by the crisis - including those with lived experience,
front-line health-care workers and substance use disorder experts - to
help strengthen our response to this crisis," Hoskins said in a
statement to the Toronto Sun.

- - With files from The Canadian Press
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