New law: California bars, nightclubs must provide date rape drug testing kits

California will put into effect a series of new laws on July 1, and among those in the books will be one that seeks to help protect bar and nightclub goers from getting unknowingly drugged.

Assembly Bill 1310 requires establishments that sell alcohol to be consumed on-site to provide drug testing kits that can detect the presence of so-called "roofies," substances that are used to spike a drink, often with the intent to facilitate a sexual assault. 

MORE NEW LAWS: New California laws go into effect on July 1

The drug must be able to detect at least one controlled substance, like GHB, ketamine, or flunitrazepam, typically used to spike drinks.

The law will apply to establishments with a Type 48 license, those that do not serve food. And it would require the drug testing kits be available at a reasonable cost or for free.

"AB 1013 is a critical first step toward addressing and raising awareness around the under-reported epidemic of drink spiking," bill author Assemblymember Josh Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) said in a statement to KTVU on Tuesday. 

And he said there is still much work that needs to be done to address the problem, promising further legislation to stop what he called a "drink spiking crisis."

Lowenthal, who’s also a bar and restaurant owner, said that it can be difficult to catch perpetrators in the act, and once someone has been drugged, it is often too late to prevent the person from becoming a victim of rape or other crime.

In addition, the controlled substances are difficult to detect and can pass through a person’s system by the next morning. 

"Due to the challenges of addressing and prosecuting this crime after it has taken place, preventative measures have proven to be the most effective means of deterring perpetrators and curbing instances of drink spiking," said Lowenthal.

The law also requires the bars and nightclubs to post a warning sign about the dangers of possible drink spiking and a notice of the testing kits’ availability. 

The businesses must place the notice in a prominent location, with the verbiage: "Don’t get roofied! Drink spiking drug test kits available here. Ask a staff member for details."

(California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control)

Bars and nightclubs across California have been getting ready to comply with the law.

At the Hotsy Totsy Club, a cocktail bar in Albany, owner Michael Valladares told KTVU he took issue with the legislation and strongly disagreed with the requirement to put up the notice.

Hotsy Totsy Club in Albany, Calif. will be subject to a new law requiring drug testing kits and new signage to help prevent sexual assaults from drink spiking. (Hotsy Totsy Club / )

"I find it absurd that we have to post signage in our cocktail lounge about the possibility of being drugged," Valladares said. "I understand the urgency for protecting people, however, reminding through signage, the possibility of becoming victimized does not seem hospitality friendly."

The bar owner also noted that businesses like his have already been required by law to put up signs about human trafficking, which he said, "also comes off at the very least threatening."

He said his business has been set up as a cocktail destination with a reputation of sophistication and felt that the signage about getting roofied is undignified. 

"I believe these laws come and go politically and are detrimental to the businesses," Valladares said.

Nonetheless, he said he had no choice but to adhere. "I've already printed out the sign and purchased the test kits, as there is no other option," the business owner said.

Inside of the Hotsy Totsy Club in Albany, Calif. The bar will be subject to a new law requiring drug testing kits to be available to patrons. (Michael Valladares / Hotsy Totsy Club )

The new law is expected to affect roughly 2,400 licensees across California, according to the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

According to Lowenthal's office, local jurisdictions have established similar programs or requirements, but California is believed to be the first state in the country to enact the drug testing kit law.