The “powdered alcohol prohibition” rose up quickly. Before 2014, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), just two states had existing statutes that would affect the sale of powdered alcohol products.
Alaska had a law banning the sale of any powdered form of alcohol which contained more than 76 percent alcohol by volume. And Delaware included powders and crystals among the concentrated alcoholic beverages coming under its existing alcohol statutes.
Then, NCSL says, Louisiana, South Carolina and Vermont joined Alaska in banning the sale of most powdered alcohol. Michigan passed legislation that includes powdered alcohol with one-half percent or more by volume as falling within the state’s definition of “alcoholic liquor.”
Then came 2015, when 89 bills on powdered alcohol were introduced in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. By August, NCSL says that 25 states have banned powdered alcohol. Ironically, that’s the same number of states that some say will soon consider making recreational marijuana legal.
The current powdered alcohol prohibition covers Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state. Maryland and Minnesota both enacted a one-year moratorium, and Colorado, Delaware, Michigan and New Mexico have added powdered alcohol into their definitions for alcohol under existing statues.
What happened between 2014 and 2015 to cause so many states to ban something that was not on their radar just a year earlier?
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved “Palcohol,” a powdered alcohol product that is the brainchild of a Phoenix entrepreneur. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also found the non-alcohol ingredients in “Palcohol” are typical of those found in many processed foods. FDA has no regulatory authority over alcoholic products.
Mark Phillips, the inventor of “Palcohol” and his business, known as Lipsmark LLC, have depicted his creation as a “niche” product for use when a powdered product might be preferred over lugging along liquid booze.
“When I hike, kayak, backpack (or) whatever, I like to have a drink when I reach my destination,” Phillips explains. “Carrying liquid alcohol and mixers in bottles to make a margarita, for example, was totally impractical.”
While losing half the country to the sale of his product in less than year, Phillips did persuade Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to veto the bill that would have prevented sale of “Palcohol” in the state where it’s likely to be manufactured.
During the past few months, Phillips has stayed busy knocking down hysteria about his product. Nowhere has that been more so than in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said, “This dangerous product is a public health disaster waiting to happen.” And Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has called for a federal ban for the product he refers to as “Kool-Aid for underage drinking.”
Sales of powdered alcohol would be limited to those of legal age, making it no more available to minors than beer, wine and liquid alcohol is right now. Phillips insists “Palcohol” is not some kind of super concentrate, but simply one shot of alcohol in a powdered form.
The 40-state rush to look at bans on powdered alcohol has raised some eyebrows. Taxpayer-funded anti-drug and anti-alcohol organizations that exist in every state have been natural allies for such bills. However, some say that major brewers and distillers might be quietly behind the “powder prohibition.”
And it’s not over. The Montana Department of Revenue plans to hold a public hearing Sept. 21 on a rule to ban alcohol in powdered and crystalline forms.
(Food Safety News wanted to know if “Palcohol” will be manufactured by late summer as planned and whether half the states and foreign markets will be enough of a starter market for the product. However, Phillips did not respond to our invitation to comment.)
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