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New California law to require bars have drink spiking drug test kits available

By Lee Anne Denyer

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    CALIFORNIA (KCRA) — A new California law going into effect this summer will require bars to have drink testing kits available to patrons who may suspect something may have been put in their drinks.

“We have to prevent it — A lot like drunk driving, before it happens,” said Assemblymember Josh Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who helped spearhead the bill.

Lowenthal, a bar and restaurant owner himself, said his own experiences as a business owner and those as a father inspired him to push to get the new law, AB 1013, into place. He said more needs to be done to curb sexual assault across the state.

“It feels good to get a bill across the finish line and to have the governor sign it, but I’m only going to feel happy when we know we’re making an impact on cutting down on sexual assault. That’s it. That’s the only measuring stick here,” he said.

The law applies only to businesses with Type 48 licenses, which are places that serve alcohol but don’t sell food. That includes bars and nightclubs. The bill does not require businesses to offer the kits for free.

“We don’t want this to be tough for them financially. We don’t want this to be tough for anybody. We just want a more safe environment,” Lowenthal said.

Test strips can be found online for less than a dollar per test. Lowenthal said. When purchased in bulk, they range around 25 cents and can test for drugs such as GHB and ketamine.

“There’s no taste. There’s no scent. There is no color to them. They’re really tough to detect, but very fortunately, they’re easy to test,” Lowenthal said. “Just one drop of your drink onto a test coaster, and you know immediately if your drink has been spiked.”

Beth Hassett is the CEO of Weave, a Sacramento-based organization that provides resources to victims of sexual assault.

“Everything is a good step if we’re making it easier for victims to find out if they have been drugged,” she said.

Hassett said it’s important for people to keep an eye on each other when out, and keep track of their drink and how much they’ve consumed. She said staff at bars must remain vigilant, too. She said a tactic can be someone giving someone extra alcohol, without any substances in it, to take advantage of them.

“I would hate for people to think that this is the only tool they need, but I do think it could be a good thing for people who might be at risk and might be being exposed to somebody using a drug to get them in a compromised position,” she said.

The new law will also require establishments to post signage indicating the test kits are available for purchase, reading: “Don’t get roofied! Drink spiking drug test kits available here. Ask a staff member for details.”

The governor approved AB 1013 in October 2023.

A spokesperson for the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control deferred questions about AB 1013 to Lowenthal, adding the department is still working to determine exactly how the new requirements will be implemented.

Lowenthal said he hoped to expand the program to more categories of establishments and venues, as well as to college campuses, to continue fighting what he described as a crisis that must be addressed.

“We really want fellow bar owners to jump on board with this, and we think that everybody is going to see it as part of a solution,” he said.

The law will take effect July 1, 2024.

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