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Clinton Signs Legislation Increasing Penalties for Methamphetamine and Rohypnol®


November 1996

On October 3, President Clinton signed the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-237) in response to what the DEA says is the fastest growing drug problem in the West and Southwest. The legislation allows authorities to seize chemicals used to make "speed." It also increases penalties for trafficking in the chemicals and for possessing equipment to make the drug (Associated Press, "Drug Act Signed," Washington Post, October 4, 1996, p. A21).

On October 13, President Clinton signed the Drug Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-305), making it a crime to give a controlled substance to anyone without their knowledge with the intent of committing a violent crime. Violation of the new law is punishable by as much as 20 years in prison and a fine as high as $250,000 (Peter Baker, "President Claims Credit For Lower Crime Rates," Washington Post, October 14, 1996, p. A10; Naftali Bendavid, "Defending the 'Date Rape' Drug," Legal Times (Washington, D.C.), September 23, 1996, p. 1).

The new law targets Rohypnol®, a sedative that has been tagged as the "date-rape drug." In recent years there have been reports of Rohypnol®, also known as "roofies" or "roaches," being used by rapists to tranquilize their unsuspecting prey. "You've got a drug that makes your partner less capable or willing to resist, and unable to remember afterwards," says Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at the University of California at Los Angeles. The drug is illegal in the United States and Clinton barred its import in March ("Congress Considers Legislation Targeting Rohypnol®, the 'Date Rape Drug,'" NewsBriefs, Summer 1996; "U.S. Bans Importation of Rohypnol®," NewsBriefs, April 1996; "Use of Rohypnol® Spreading, NIDA Panel Says," NewsBriefs, September 1995, p. 23; "Abuse of Sedatives 'Rophies' on the Rise in Florida," NewsBriefs, February 1995, p. 20).

Hoffman-La Roche, the giant Swiss-based pharmaceutical company that produces Rohypnol®, said it supports stiffer criminal sanctions against the misuse of the drug, but did not want to see the drug reclassified to Schedule I, the same schedule as heroin and LSD. Hoffman-La Roche argued that a Schedule I classification would stigmatize Rohypnol® as being extremely dangerous, and would damage the drug's $100 million market overseas where it is legal. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) proposed an amendment that passed that increased penalties for trafficking the drug, but did not reclassify it from Schedule IV to Schedule I. Hatch said he wanted to avoid sending "a strong and inappropriate signal to other countries that we find there is no medical use for Rohypnol®."