McHenry County-area lawmakers open to banning powdered alcohol products

Illinois bill would create prohibiton, as company seeks to sell, market the product

Federal regulators have approved a new form of booze that combines powder and water to create a standard mixed drink, but area state lawmakers don’t want it sold and distributed in Illinois.

Many other lawmakers feel the same, as legislators in 39 states have introduced 77 bills in 2015 that either prohibit or regulate the sale and distribution of powdered alcohol products, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The flurry of legislative activity comes after Palcohol, a company looking to sell the powdered form of alcohol, successfully gained federal approval earlier this spring to market the product.

A bill that recently cleared the Illinois Senate on a 56-0 vote would ban the sale and distribution of the product throughout the state. Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, said she voted for the bill after hearing that underage kids could easily buy the product online.

“Minors could, without so much more than a click on the computer, order and receive this type of powdered substance,” Althoff said. “There is no method to track it or determine who is buying it.”

State Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, who voted for the prohibition, said powdered alcohol products pose personal safety issues, since the powdered alcohol absorbs quicker and can make people feel heavily intoxicated.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, now awaits House action.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said he doesn’t know enough yet about the products but said that a prohibition on powdered alcohol might be appropriate.

“I can’t see any good for it, ever,” Franks said. “At first blush, it seems to make sense not to be selling this stuff, but I need to hear more about it.”

If the bill becomes law, Illinois would join six other states that have so far banned the sale and distribution of powdered alcohol products. The states with prohibitions include Alaska, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont and Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Legislatures in Colorado, Delaware, Michigan and New Mexico have opted to regulate powdered alcohol products like other forms of booze.

Palcohol founder Mark Phillips said on the company’s website he wanted a more convenient form of alcohol that he could use after a hike or a run.

The flavor powders he developed combines 6 ounces of water to create a standard cocktail. The different flavorings can create cocktails such as a Cosmopolitan, Margarita or Lemon Drop, according to the company’s website.

Consumers also can use the powder and a mixer to create different drinks, like a screwdriver with powdered vodka and regular orange juice or a powdered rum and coke.

With many legislatures working to ban or regulate its product, Palcohol has fired back, detailing numerous reasons on its website why a product ban is bad.

Among the reasons: Bans would create a black market for the product and underage kids would be deterred by Palcohol’s cost, which is four times greater than liquid alcohol. It also would be difficult to spike a drink with Palcohol, since it needs to be stirred and takes longer to dissolve.

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