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Bills tighten penalty for date rape drugs

October 5, 2000

Furthering the state’s war on date-rape drugs, two more bills passed in the state House Tuesday.

One of the bills will outlaw the use, manufacture and possession of gamma-butyrolactone, or GBL. The chemical is commonly found in the date-rape drug gamma-hydroxybutyrate, or GHB.

The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake.

“Naturally, I was aware of the drug,” Kowall said. “I have two daughters, one in college and one about to graduate from high school, so fighting this was the dad coming out in me.”

Gamma-butyrolactone is a chemical used alone or mixed with other chemicals to create gamma-hydroxybutyric acid. Both leave their victims unable to fend off a sexual attack.

GHB has been linked to at least 58 deaths since 1990 and more than 5,700 recorded overdoses, the Drug Enforcement Administration said. There have been at least five deaths in Michigan.

A few drops of the drug, which is colorless and odorless, can be slipped into a drink, rendering a victim unconscious within 20 minutes. Victims frequently have no memory of what happened, and the drug is difficult to trace, often leaving the body within 24 hours.

The other bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jennifer Faunce, R-Warren, sets up penalties for such violations, including a two-year maximum penalty for possession of GBL. The bill also allots for a seven-year penalty for delivery or manufacturing of GBL, and up to 20 years if the chemical is used in conjunction with a criminal sexual act.

Kowall said he was approached about a year ago about the dangers of the two drugs. He was asked to help push for their criminalization within the state. He said he worked closely with Faunce on the bills’ creation and passage.

“This is just going to make people think a little bit more before they dump a capful of this stuff into someone’s drink,” Kowall said. “And just for kicks they’ll end up spending up to 20 years behind bars.”

Kowall said his bill was necessary because it addresses GBL, which a federal law that addresses date-rape drugs does not.

The federal law, signed by President Bill Clinton in February, placed GHB in a category of drugs that are the most strictly regulated by the federal Controlled Substances Act. The law makes it illegal for anyone to possess, manufacture or distribute GHB.

The legislation would give the DEA authority for the first time to seek federal criminal charges against those possessing and distributing the drug, DEA officials said. The law also significantly increases prison time for the drug.

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