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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Banned in most states, including Washington, powdered alcohol formula goes to auction

Hey, entrepreneurs. The country's only powdered-alcohol company is auctioning off its secret manufacturing process.

Scottsdale, Arizona-based Lipsmark LLC, which makes the boozy powder known as Palcohol, has decided to sell its formula to the highest bidder in each of 130 countries, from Albania to Zimbabwe. Manufacturers will get to keep all revenue from their product, which is marketed as a convenient way to enjoy a stiff drink on the go.

Palcohol has federal approval in the United States, but the pushback from states was immense. The controversial product – which turns water into rum, vodka or a fruit-flavored cocktail – made headlines last year when lawmakers voted to ban it in Washington. By last November, 26 other states had done the same, and two others had imposed temporary bans.

A Lipsmark spokeswoman wouldn't say if that influenced the company’s decision to sell the formula. In an email, she referred to this statement on the Palcohol website: “We believe that Palcohol’s potential can be best realized by a person (or) company in the country that is familiar with the liquor laws and distribution systems.”

To recap, here’s how Washington lawmakers dealt with the emergence of this unusual product:

The original bill, sponsored by Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, would have allowed powdered alcohol under all the same restrictions that apply to hard liquor. Although it passed the Senate unanimously last month, the bill met resistance in the House Commerce and Gaming Committee.

Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, rewrote the bill to outlaw the purchase, sale and possession of powdered alcohol statewide. As a former Spokane police officer, Holy said he’s concerned that people would smuggle the product into public places. Some worried the small pouches of sweet powder would appeal to children.

Others have raised concerns about the potential to misuse the product, by snorting or inhaling it, spiking an unsuspecting person’s food or drinks, or combining it with other alcoholic beverages. “You might have absolutely no concept of the volume (of alcohol) that you’re taking in,” Holy said.

There’s probably no reason to fret about people snorting powdered alcohol, though. A handful of internet glory-seekers have tried that, and most said it burned. A lot.

If you’re itching to make a batch on the cheap, there are plenty of recipes online. Says Lipsmark, “While we did not invent powdered alcohol, we were the first to develop a cost effective and commercially viable way to manufacture it. We were also the first, and so far the only company to get powdered alcohol approved in the United States.”

So maybe, in the right hands, this product will take off. But not in Washington.

Chad Sokol
Chad Sokol is a general assignment reporter for the City Desk. He joined The Spokesman-Review in 2015 as an intern in the Olympia bureau covering state government. After a stint of freelancing, he joined the staff in 2016. His focuses include higher education, jails and prisons, white nationalism and anti-government extremism.

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