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Sunday, July 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Idaho looks at banning powdered alcohol

BOISE – Now that an Arizona company has developed and is preparing to market a form of powdered alcohol, including a “Powderita” that touts, “Just add water for an instant cocktail,” Idaho’s state Liquor Division is proposing legislation to ban the product in the Gem State.

Twenty-five states, including Washington, Nevada and Utah, already have passed legislation to ban powdered alcohol, and a proposed federal law also is pending to ban what New York Sen. Charles Schumer called “Kool-Aid for underage drinking.”

The creator of “Palcohol,” Mark Phillips, vigorously disputes that characterization, maintaining his product is a safe form of alcohol that could be regulated and sold to adults just like liquid alcohol. Phillips, head of Lipsmark Inc., says on his company website that he developed the product “after years of research, experimentation and consultation with scientists around the world.”

It could be used by folks like backpackers who don’t want to carry the weight of liquid alcohol, and its light weight would make it easy to ship, he notes. The product, approved by the FDA in March, hasn’t yet hit the market, but the company is touting versions made from vodka and rum, and others that are powdered forms of cocktails including a margarita and a cosmopolitan. There are also possible industrial uses.

“Whether you are conservative or liberal, no one wants a nanny government telling its citizens what they can and cannot drink,” Phillips declared on the website. “The legislature is there to protect the citizen’s right to choose and support innovative business ideas, not to impose your values on them.”

But Jeff Anderson, director of the Idaho State Liquor Division, said, “This is a product that has caused great concern around the country, particularly for its concealability.” He said the division reached out to a broad coalition of prevention groups, law enforcement, educators, and alcohol distributors and retailers, and all backed banning it.

He said concerns range from dangers of people improperly consuming the product by snorting it; to dangers if it’s improperly mixed, possibly with other liquors; to the powder being sneaked into places where alcohol is prohibited, from football stadiums to high school cafeterias.

Anderson noted that Idaho lawmakers earlier banned “vaping” alcohol, or inhaling alcohol in the form of a vapor.

“I’m just hopeful that we can get the legislative support,” he said. “I would presume that we’ll have a good debate, which we deserve to have as a people, and I’m hopeful that we’ll follow the lead of those two dozen or more other states that have just made it clear that this, like vaping alcohol, is not something that’s necessary for the folks of the Gem State.”

Idaho’s legislative session starts Jan. 11.

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