The state of Idaho is moving to ban powdered alcohol before it ever appears on store shelves. Oregon and Washington did the same last year.
An Arizona-based company has a patent pending on granular forms of vodka and rum. Someone hankering for a cocktail on a hike or an airplane would just need to add water and mix. Dubbed Palcohol, the company calls it a "revolutionary new product," but it is not available for retail sale anywhere because of a groundswell of regulatory opposition.
Idaho State Liquor Division Director Jeff Anderson characterized powdered alcohol to legislators Wednesday as "dangerous, unnecessary and prone to abuse."
"It has inherent concealability that will lead to illicit use where alcohol is prohibited, whether it be sports stadiums, high school lunchrooms, et cetera,” Anderson said.
A preliminary vote in an Idaho House committee indicated broad support for a ban on the sale or possession of powdered alcohol.
The product's creator, Mark Phillips, argued that would be a bad decision. He said lawmakers are behaving like a "nanny government" and "limiting our freedom of choice.”
"Even though liquid alcohol is a proven public health problem, we don't ban it and we shouldn't ban powdered alcohol," Phillips wrote on his company's website. "We've learned that Prohibition doesn't work."
Phillips trademarked the name Palcohol for the five versions of powdered alcohol his company hopes to sell.
The U.S. Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau reviewed the formulation and labelling of Palcohol and gave its final approval early last year. But 27 states have passed laws to ban the product. The Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Utah legislatures voted by wide margins to do so last year.
“I did think about this, because it might have some utility and I recognize that," Democratic Governor Jay Inslee explained after he signed Washington’s ban last May. "But on the balance, I just think that protecting our children had to take precedence in this particular circumstance."
Phillips said "it's been tough with all the states taking action" to get his product onto store shelves. He remains optimistic consumers will get to try powdered alcohol eventually. "It still has a bright future in the United States," Phillips contended in an interview with public radio Wednesday.
He argued that powdered alcohol is safer than liquid alcohol. "Palcohol costs four times more than liquid alcohol and one can't drink it straight like liquid alcohol. Kids will always choose liquid alcohol," Phillips wrote.