States Rebel Against Federal Approval of Powdered Alcohol With Their Own Bans

By McCarton Ackerman 03/17/15

States are acting to ban powdered alcohol mere days after the FDA's approval.

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Just days after a powdered alcohol product called Palcohol was approved at the federal level, some states are taking matters into their own hands by banning the sale of powdered booze.

After being approved last spring by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Palcohol was quickly pulled by the bureau after they said the approvals were made in error. However, bureau spokesman Tom Hogue said that all issues with the product were resolved and that four varieties of Palcohol were approved. It will be sold in one-ounce packets, the equivalent of one shot of alcohol, and come in flavors including vodka and rum. The powder is simply mixed into water to produce an alcoholic beverage.

But less than three months into 2015, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported that 47 bills in 28 states have been introduced that address powdered alcohol. Virginia is the latest state to unanimously approve a ban on powdered alcohol, which is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Possessing, selling, buying, or using it will be considered a class 1 misdemeanor in the state, which could spark a $2,500 fine and up to 12 months in jail. Virginia now joins Alaska, Louisiana, South Carolina, Massachusetts, and Vermont in banning the distribution of Palcohol, while others are also considering similar measures.

“I am proud that we were able to take action this session to protect our young people and ban powdered alcohol in the commonwealth of Virginia,” said Del. Alfonzo H. Lopez (D-Arlington). He co-wrote the legislation with state Attorney General Mark Herring, who said that “it was the right move to protect Virginians, especially young people, because the risk of abuse and misuse is just so high with this product.” He also expressed concern that the powder could more easily be hidden and used at public events, as well as unknowingly spiked into people’s drinks.

A statement on the Palcohol website said the company is aiming for a summer launch of their product. Founder Mark Phillips also slammed states who have banned Palcohol, declaring that “since the product isn’t even on the market yet, there is not one shred of evidence that it will be used or abused any differently than liquid alcohol.” He also addressed concerns that the powder could be snorted by users looking to get a quick fix.

"Because of the alcohol in powdered alcohol, snorting it is very painful, it burns, a lot. It hurts," said Phillips last May. "It would take about one hour for someone to snort this much powder. Why would anyone choose to spend an hour of pain and misery snorting all of this powder to get one drink in their system?"

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.