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New Jersey Governor Whitman Signs Laws Increasing Drug Penalties


September-October 1997

On August 4, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R) signed three bills that will stiffen sentencing for drug offenses and make it easier for prosecutors to seize the property of convicted drug dealers ("Whitman Signs Drug Laws," The New York Times, August 5, 1997, p. B1; Roya Rafei, "Whitman OKs Tough Anti-Drug Laws," Herald & News, August 5, 1997, p. B1; Ron Marisco, "Hopefuls warm up for gubernatorial bid," Star Ledger (Newark), August 5, 1997, p. 19).

The Governor, facing a tough re-election challenge in November, signed the two bills into law at the Passaic County jail. One measure (A-2957) increases penalties for those who carry large amounts of marijuana and methamphetamine, making it a first-degree crime to manufacture, distribute or dispense 25 pounds or more of marijuana, 50 or more marijuana plants, 5 or more pounds of hashish, or more than 5 ounces of methamphetamine. The second measure (A-2958) allows the state to forfeit property of drug defendant even if the property cannot be traced to illegal activity. A third measure (A-2956) increases penalties for drug dealers who employ booby traps or other impediments to harm law enforcement.

On August 8, Whitman signed legislation (A-2725) allowing for a 20-year prison sentence for a rape conviction if the victim is incapacitated by a so-called "date rape drug," such as Rohypnol®, or gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB). GHB has been unregulated but is described by Andrew Weil, MD, as an "endogenous downer." It is also used by body builders because of its effect on the pituitary gland. GHB can produce intoxication (Andrew Weil, MD, From Chocolate to Morphine, Rev'd Ed., 1993, p. 77).

The new law also makes possession of Rohypnol® or GHB an offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Rohypnol® has been reported on by NewsBriefs extensively (See "Florida Lawmakers Try to Crack Down on 'Raves,' and Associated Drugs," NewsBriefs, May-June 1997; "Clinton Signs Legislation Increasing Penalties for Methamphetamine and Rohypnol®," NewsBriefs, November 1996). On the same day, Whitman also signed a bill (A-2712) that designates Ketamine, an anesthetic, known as "Special K," as a controlled dangerous substance. Andrew Weil, MD, describes Ketamine as a close relative of PCP, but notes that it is often diverted from medical supplies (Weil, p. 139). (News Release, "Governor Whitman Outlaws `Special K' Drug and Steps Up Penalties for Use of Rape Drugs," Office of the Governor, August 8, 1997; "Rape-Drug Bill is Signed," New York Times, August 9, 1997, p. A25; Melody Petersen, "Before an Election, Prisons Are Good. The Bills Come Later.," The New York Times, August 10, 1997, p. 6).

Governor Christine Todd Whitman - 125 West State Street, P.O. Box 001, Trenton, NJ 08625, Tel: (609) 292-6000, TDD: (609) 777-1292. The new anti-drug laws are located on-line at: