Last year, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau approved a new form of powdered alcohol for recreational use. Since then, over half of U.S. states have banned the substance. Now, an Idaho legislative committee has introduced a bill that would ban it here.
Mark Phillips is the creator of Palcohol, the trademarked name for powdered alcohol. He says it’s been an uphill battle getting state legislatures to hear his case for why the substance should be legal.
For Phillips, he has learned that a proactive approach is essential for state lawmakers who might consider a ban. Part of that effort comes down to contacting lawmakers in states considering a ban and educating the public about the product.
"The first instinct is to think it might be a bad thing when it’s safer than liquid alcohol and has many innovative solutions," says Phillips. "When so many legislatures are taking action, it was way beyond our capacity to deal with all those at one time."
Phillips believes the liquor industry has the most to lose by the legalization of powdered alcohol. But here, Idaho State Liquor Division head Jeff Anderson says a ban has the backing of police and educators. He’s concerned powdered alcohol could be smuggled or misused. He says that the number of states that have already banned the substance gave Idaho officials a reason to consider following suit.
“When we presented at the hearing there had been 27 states that have already passed statutory prohibitions of powdered alcohol," said Anderson.
He says there are concerns that powdered alcohol could easily be smuggled into places where alcohol is banned, and that some may attempt to snort it. But Phillips says those views are misguided.
“If the director of the liquor division knew about the product, he’d know that liquid alcohol is easier to smuggle in than powdered alcohol," says Phillips. "You can get drunk very quickly snorting liquid alcohol but you can’t get drunk snorting powdered alcohol."
Phillips believes there is a disconnect between focusing on the potential dangers of powdered alcohol while ignoring the health problems behind liquid alcohol in this country.
"Millions of people abuse alcohol every year, thousands die from liquid alcohol," says Phillips. "No one is calling for a ban on liquid alcohol because we know that prohibition didn’t work.”
Looking ahead this year, Phillips intends to directly reach out to Idaho lawmakers about what he says is unfair scrutiny of a substance that could be available for recreational use as early as this year.
Copyright 2016 Boise State Public Radio
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