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Nearly half of states impose bans on powdered alcohol

July 15, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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State legislatures in their 2015 sessions acted quickly to ban powdered forms of alcohol—in many cases, almost immediately after federal authorities last spring approved product labeling allowing for a powdered alcohol product to be sold legally in the U.S.

According to an analysis released in late June by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 22 states as of last month have banned powdered alcohol on either a temporary or long-term basis. The earliest states to regulate powdered forms of alcohol, according to NCSL, were Alaska and Delaware; Alaska has statutorily banned the sale of most powdered alcohol products since the mid-1990s, and Delaware's definition of “concentrated alcohol beverages” that are regulated under the state's alcohol standards has included powdered alcohol since the mid-1980s.

The NCSL legislative summary states, “The makers of Palcohol, who are seeking federal approval to market it, say their freeze-dried vodka, rum, 'powderitas' and other drinks will appeal to backpackers and others who want a lightweight, more portable form of liquor.”

According to NCSL, 89 bills related to powdered alcohol were introduced this year in 40 states. Besides Alaska, the other states that have moved to prohibit powdered alcohol sales are Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Colorado, Michigan and New Mexico have joined Delaware in incorporating powdered alcohol into their statutory definitions of alcohol for regulatory purposes. Maryland and Minnesota have enacted one-year bans on the product.

The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in March approved revised labeling for Palcohol, meaning that it can be sold legally in a jurisdiction unless otherwise prohibited. The powdered product is mixed with water to make an alcoholic beverage.

The manufacturer of Palcohol has counteracted arguments that the product could be snorted or would be used frequently to spike an unsuspecting person's drink. It also contends that the liquor industry is behind the push in the states for a ban, in its quest to protect market share.