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State Legislator Vows Ban on Deadly Drug

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A state lawmaker and former law enforcement officer says he will pursue legislation to impose a ban as quickly as possible on a legal but deadly drug that has been making the rounds of some Southern California nightclubs.

Assemblyman Larry Bowler (R-Elk Grove) said he will introduce a bill Monday--the first day of the new legislative session--making possession of gamma hydroxy butyrate, or GHB, a felony.

Bowler, a former Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy, said he was responding to a request from the Los Angeles Police Department and was drafting a bill designed to take effect immediately upon passage by the Legislature and signing by the governor.

Known by the street names “cherry meth,” “liquid X” and “scoop,” GHB has been linked to at least three deaths in the United States. Twice this month, paramedics have been sent to Southland nightclubs to treat overdose victims.

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Six patrons of a Hollywood nightspot where rushed to hospitals two weeks ago after they consumed the drug. Three had to be resuscitated after they stopped breathing, medical attendants said.

Earlier, four people collapsed sick or unconscious at a nightclub in Huntington Beach where the clear liquid substance was believed to have been slipped into their drinks.

In both instances, all recovered by the next day.

Police said they were unable to make arrests because no law declares possession of GHB illegal.

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Bowler’s bill would make GHB a “Schedule 1 controlled substance,” meaning that anyone found possessing it could be charged with a felony.

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Recently the Los Angeles Police Commission urged city officials to support such legislation.

Additionally, LAPD narcotics investigators pressed Bowler’s office directly, according to an aide to the assemblyman, to craft the pending bill, which will be among the first introduced for the 1997 legislative session.

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Both houses meet Monday, mainly to swear in members and choose leaders, but lawmakers also are permitted to introduce bills to be considered when the Legislature reconvenes in early January.

In order to take effect quickly, the GHB legislation would require a two-thirds majority vote in both houses, after committee hearings. That could take weeks, but would be quicker than the regular process, in which bills passed by a simple majority are enacted at year’s end.

Bowler also teamed up with LAPD officers earlier this year when he sponsored, with state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles), a bill that became law banning Rohypnol, a so-called date rape drug.

Like that drug, Bowler said, “GHB is relatively new and therefore is not currently listed as a controlled substance in California.” His bill, he said, “will remedy that situation.”

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Anti-drug experts have said GHB acts quickly, causing giddiness and euphoria, but then leads to lethargy, drowsiness, blackouts and in some cases stomach pain, vomiting, breathing difficulty, seizures and coma.

Narcotics investigators have said a regular user can buy a month’s supply of GHB--easily formulated from readily available substances--for as little as $140.

Although police are prevented from making arrests for possession or use of the drug, the federal Food and Drug Administration prohibits its commercial sale and the U.S. Department of Justice has sought prosecutions on charges of its illegal distribution and manufacture.


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