Governor signs bipartisan bill to crack down on pill press operations flooding streets with fentanyl

In July, Washington state will join Mississippi and British Columbia as the only three jurisdictions to ban the private use of pill presses which are being used to make fake Percocet and other drugs that have flooded the black market in Washington state and are driving the state’s skyrocketing overdose rate.

Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1209 Thursday, which will make possession or sale of a pill press – outside of legitimate medical usesa Class C felony in Washington punishable by five years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine.

“It is a victory in our otherwise inadequate plan to fight the out-of-control drug crisis in Washington state that is killing people every day, often our children and the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Rep. Dan Griffey-R, Allyn, who co-sponsored the bill proposed by Democratic Rep. Mari Leavitt.

“The industrious monsters making and pedaling these fake pills are playing Russian Roulette with all lives,” said Griffey. “And now, they are targeting our youngest, most vulnerable – our children, making these pills in rainbow colors to look like children’s cereal to market to kids with deadly consequences.”

The bill was personal for Rep. Griffey who lost a close family friend to fentanyl just over a year ago – Tyler Lee Yates. Tyler was the 31-year-old son of a firefighter Rep. Griffey came up the ranks with during his more than 30-year career as a firefighter. Tyler became addicted to opioids after suffering severe back injuries in a motorcycle crash. In January of 2022, he bought what he believed to be a Percocet in the parking lot of a local casino. He took that pill which turned out to be counterfeit fentanyl made with a pill press and just that single pill was enough to end his life right there in the parking lot of the casino. The bill is named in memory of Tyler.

“He was one of those guys that was good at everything,” Zach Yates, Tyler’s brother told KING 5 after the bill signing. “He was a great guy.”

“There’s no way to tell the difference between a real one and a fake one,” said Greg Yates, Tyler’s father. “Unfortunately, in this case it was counterfeit, and it was fentanyl, and it was enough to end his life. If one life can be saved or if awareness can come out of this, if anything good can come out of a tragedy that’s all we can ever hope for.”

Two people arrested for allegedly providing the fake pill to Tyler are now awaiting trial on Controlled Substance Homicide and other charges.

Illegal pill press operations are a growing problem in Washington state and across the country. The U.S. Attorney for Western Washington recently announced indictments against 27 people connected to a massive drug operation that included a Shelton couple found with 650,000 counterfeit fentanyl pills made with a pill press. A Marysville couple is on trial in a similar case.

Tyler’s Law passed both chambers of the Legislature unanimously.

“This is one small step in what needs to be the first of many to protect our communities against the scourge of fentanyl,” said Griffey. “I want to thank my good friend, Rep. Mari Leavitt for inviting me to take part in this bipartisan effort. We have a long way to go, and I look forward to being a leader in that fight.”

###

Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov