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States declare war on powdered alcohol

Source: Washington Examiner
Nathan Rubbelke
May 29, 2015
Powdered alcohol, given the green light by federal regulators in March, is facing battles across the country as state legislatures and federal politicians file legislation aimed at banning the newly approved product.
Eighty-one bills seeking to ban or regulate powdered alcohol have been filed in 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico this year. Most seek to ban powdered alcohol, while others intend to amend state alcohol definitions to include powdered alcohol.
The bills are aimed at Palcohol, a new product approved by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in March. Created by Arizona entrepreneur Mark Phillips, Palcohol is a flavored and powdered alcohol that can be mixed with water or other liquids. Adding one pouch of powder to six ounces of liquid equals one mixed drink, according to the product’s website.
The state and federal legislation aimed at powdered alcohol all comes before Palcohol has even reached the market. According to the product’s website, it hopes to hit shelves sometime this summer.
While a bevy of legislation has been aimed at banning Palcohol, most of the proposed bills will not come to fruition. With the 2015 legislative term nearly complete in most states, only 11 of the 81 bills aimed at powdered alcohol have been signed into law. Bills banning powdered alcohol in Illinois, Hawaii and Connecticut await signatures from each state’s governor. All three are expected to sign the bills.
Nine of the already signed bills effectively ban powdered alcohol. The states join four others that have permanently or temporarily banned powdered alcohol prior to 2015. Bills signed this year in Colorado and New Mexico defined powdered alcohol and set regulatory restrictions.
In 13 states, bills aimed at banning or regulating powdered alcohol passed only one chamber of the state’s legislature. For instance, Ohio’s House of Representatives passed three bills this year that would ban powdered alcohol. None of them have been taken up by the state Senate.
More than half of the bills filed in state legislatures were never voted on, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In one exception to the trend of banning powdered alcohol, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed the state legislature’s ban.
“At this time, there does not appear to be evidence that this bill is necessary,” Ducey wrote in his veto letter.
While against an outright ban, Ducey said he sees the need to regulate powdered alcohol.
“I have instructed the director of the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control to review administrative rules to ensure that powdered alcohol is regulated to the same extent as other spiritous beverages,” his veto letter continued.
The bill’s sponsor, republican Rep. Bob Thorpe, said he fears powdered alcohol will allow individuals to sneak alcohol into venues and allow more rampant underage drinking.
“[T]here is the potential for the same problem in schools, both in junior high and high school,” he told AZ Central, a newspaper in Phoenix.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also has expressed concern that powdered alcohol will increase underage drinking. He filed federal legislation to ban powdered alcohol just two days after Palcohol was federally approved.
“We simply can’t sit back and wait for powdered alcohol to hit store shelves across the country, potentially causing more alcohol-related hospitalizations and, God forbid, deaths. This legislation will make illegal the production and sale of this Kool-Aid for underage drinking,” Schumer said in March.
Schumer’s bill, which has no other sponsors, would “prohibit the manufacture, sale, distribution or possession of powdered alcohol.” The bill was referred to as the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, but no other action has been taken since the bill’s introduction on March 12.
State lawmakers say they want to be proactive about powdered alcohol before it potentially becomes a serious problem.
Palcohol founder Mark Phillips argues his product is safer than liquid alcohol and that banning powdered alcohol will only lure more underage drinkers.
His product’s website is dedicated to correcting what he calls the “untruths presented by critics.”
“While the intentions by legislators to ban powdered alcohol is to keep it out of the hands of underage drinkers, a ban will actually make it easier for kids to get a hold of it,” Phillips writes on his website. “A ban heightens demand for the product (we want what we can’t have) and the government has no control over distribution.”
Some critics have charged that powdered alcohol can be easily snorted, but Phillips says that’s not true.
“[I]t’s very painful to snort. It’s cheaper, faster and less painful to get drunk on liquid alcohol,” Phillips writes.
Even as Phillips defends his product, it seems the scrutiny won’t slow down anytime soon, especially if the 2015 legislative term is any indicator.