Kentucky Legislature to vote on prohibiting Palcohol in 2016

Leanora Benkato

Twenty-five states have passed laws prohibiting alcohol in crystalline form; Kentucky might be next.

A bill, 16 RS BR-1, relating to powdered or crystalline alcoholic beverage products has been prefiled for the 2016 state legislative session.

If passed, the bill would add a new section to KRS Chapter 244 and amend KRS 241.010.

The new section to KRS 244 would read as follows: “No person shall possess, sell, offer for sale, or use of any powdered or crystalline alcoholic beverage product.”

However, powdered alcohol is not yet on the market.

Rep. Jody Richards, D-Warren, the sponsor of the prefiled bill BR-1, said powdered alcohol would have a negative influence on society at large.

“It could lead to lack of productivity on the part of folks, and I think it could even increase visits to a doctor because I think people might overdose, drink too much, put too many packages in to get a bigger high,” Richards said.

Richards said the product would lead to increased incarcerations in Kentucky.

Powdered alcohol, marketed under the brand name Palcohol, is contained in individual packets of powdered ingredients that create one standard-sized drink when mixed with six ounces of liquid, according to the product’s website.

Palcohol labels were given final approval in April by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau after an initial approval was revoked due to an error.

The company at the center of the current conversation about powdered alcohol, Lipsmark LLC, stands by the safety of its drink mixes.

Mark Phillips, the creator of the contested product, said in a video he posted to YouTube that Palcohol is akin to alcohol.

“Palcohol is just like liquid alcohol,” Phillips said. “It will be sold in the same licensed establishments where alcohol is currently sold, and only adults 21 years or older with proper identification can buy it.”

He said he envisions the product as a solution for outdoor enthusiasts who want to drink alcohol on outings but for whom a heavy liquid container would be impractical to carry.

However, he believes the packaging and the properties of the powder do not make it an easier substance for spiking drinks than liquid alcohol.

“The package is too big,” Phillips said in the video while displaying miniature liquor bottles against a 4-by-6-inch plastic pouch like the ones Palcohol will be sold in. “You could sneak four bottles in the same space as one packet of Palcohol. It will take at least a minute of stirring for all the powder to dissolve.”

Similarly, Phillips dismissed concerns from those who worry teens may want to snort the powder.

“There is absolutely no reason, even for an irresponsible person, to snort powdered alcohol when they can just do a shot in two seconds and accomplish the same thing,” he said.

Some federal lawmakers want to address concerns about powdered alcohol on a national level.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who referred to the substance as “Kool-Aid for underage drinking” in a press release last spring, introduced S.2935 to the Senate in March. If passed, the bill would amend the Federal Alcohol Administration Act “to prohibit the manufacture, sale, distribution, or possession of powdered alcohol.”

“Underage alcohol abuse is a growing epidemic with tragic consequences, and powdered alcohol could exacerbate this,” Schumer said in the press release.

A previous version of BR-1 died in Kentucky’s last legislative session when the house refused to vote on the issue.

The 2016 legislative session resumes in January.

Elizabethtown sophomore Kayshla Newbrough said although some Kentuckians may enjoy using powdered alcohol, it is a bad idea.

“It’s easy access,” Newbrough said, noting the powder could be added easily to a water bottle. “Think about people using it while driving.”

Bowling Green freshman Payton Spear said powdered alcohol wouldn’t be especially dangerous.

“You could use it the same as any normal alcohol,” Spear said with a shrug. “That’s the choice of anybody. If you want to abuse something, you’re going to abuse it, but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. It’s all up to the user.”