Michigan Tightening Controls on Powdered Alcohol
By: Margaret Shea
The media is buzzing about new form of liquor coming in powdered form, referred to as “Palcohol.” Mark Phillips is the developer and a major advocate for Palcohol, he explains that he wanted alcohol that could be easily transported without the weight of the bottle and the liquid. However, as the market sizzled with excitement over this new innovation, concerns for public health increased shifting discussions of this issue into public discourse.
What is Palcohol? It is the dehydrated form of liquor that mixes with any liquid to form a cocktail. The powder is packaged into a single use 4x6 pouch that can double up as a cup and is currently offered in six different flavors including: Vodka, Puerto Rican Rum, Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Powerderita, and Lemon Drop. One pouch is equivalent to one standard “shot” of liquor and fills about one third of a six-ounce glass. Phillips suggests that the light weight form of liquor will alleviate the heavy monetary burden many companies pay in shipping fees for liquid alcohol and that the same technology could be harnessed to transport similar substances in the future, such as fuel, in a more efficient and cost effective manner.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Bureau approved Palcohol to be sold in stores nation wide earlier this year. However, this product is not generally available to the public in many areas. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged many of the public concerns surrounding the product, some states are continuing to fight for legislation due to the FDA’s lack of legal basis to block the entry of the product to the market (U.S. Food 1). Several states are amidst a legal battle centered on concerns of the potential adverse effects of the product and have been working steadily to pass bills to ban the substance on a state level. Senator Charles Schumer of New York attempted to stop the bill before it was federally approved, but was road blocked by the FDA’s current lack of public health concern of Palcohol. Senator Schumer fears that the powder will make it easier for teens to abuse liquor because it can be smuggled into events; spiked in drinks; and even snorted for immediate intoxication. Senator Schumer introduced legislation following the federal approval to stop Palcohol from hitting the shelves in stores across the country. He explains, “we simply can’t sit back and wait for powdered alcohol to hit store shelves across the country, potentially causing more alcohol-related hospitalizations and God forbid, deaths.” The proposed legislation will make illegal the production and sale of this Kool-Aid for underage drinking” (AFTER 1).
Likewise in Michigan, the fight for de-legalization of Palcohol continues. Michigan drew up Senate Bill 0240 to amend 1198 PA 58 or the “Michigan liquor control code of 1998.” Senator Rick Jones introduced the bill to the Senate on March 26th 2015, with an additional section which states that, “except as otherwise provided in subsection (Michigan 2), a person shall not use or offer for use, possess, sell, or offer for sale powdered alcohol. A person that violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable as provided in section 909.” (Senate 1). Interestingly, Section 2 permits the usage of Palcohol for research purposes in hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and universities. The bill was recently referred to Committee on Regulatory Reform on May 20th, 2015.
The question remains, what will happen next if the bill passes or dies? Although it has been discussed that possession of Palcohol will result in a misdemeanor similar to an MIP, what will happen if neighboring states legally sell the product? In response to this, the law covers possession, selling, and using powdered alcohol as a misdemeanor. In other words it will act similarly as any other controlled substance in America. Palcohol appears to be a battle between possible economic gains and public health risks. Michigan’s response has chosen the path of safeguarding the public wellbeing of the youth as opposed to possible economic benefits until the effects of available Palcohol can be seen across the nation.
AFTER FEDS GIVE GREEN LIGHT TO DANGEROUS POWDERED ALCOHOL
PALCOHOL| U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York." Charles E. Schumer: United States Senator for New York. Press Release, 13 Mar. 2015. Web. 22 May 2015.
"Michigan Legislature." - Senate Bill 0240 (2015). Legislature Service Bureau, 20 May 2015.
Web. 22 May 2015.
Senate Bill No. 240, S. 240 (2015). Print.
"U.S. Food and Drug Administration." FDA Clarifies Its Role on "Palcohol" U.S. Department of
Health and Services, 13 Mar. 2015. Web. 22 May 2015.