I didn’t even know powdered alcohol was a thing. Turns out, it is not only a thing, but, in North Carolina and in many other states it is now an unlawful thing–even though it isn’t actually available on the market.
What is powdered alcohol?
Powered alcohol is freeze-dried alcohol sold in small bags made to ready mix with water to create alcoholic drinks. Think of a Kool-Aid pouch with the sweetener—and alcohol–already mixed in.
Why have states banned it?
The Washington Post reported last summer on the origins of a recent spate of state powdered alcohol bans. Legislative action was spurred by the federal government’s approval last March of labels for the “Palcohol” brand of powered alcohol. A spokesperson for the federal bureau that approved the labels told CBS News that the approval was based on the bureau’s determination that the labels accurately reflected the products’ contents, explaining that “[p]otential for abuse” was not a basis to deny Palcohol approval.
Potential for abuse is, however, the rallying cry for many who are opposed to the sale of powered alcohol products. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called powered alcohol a “public health disaster waiting to happen.” The governor said the size and portability of the packets in which the substance is (or would be) distributed increases the ability of underage youths to access it, and that “mixing incorrectly or ingesting it in its powered form can lead to unsafe levels of intoxication.”
What does the manufacturer say?
The company that owns Palcohol says its product is “safer than liquid alcohol.” It points out that a packet of Palcohol has the same alcohol by volume as a standard mixed drink, that sales of powered alcohol will be regulated just like liquid alcohol, that Palcohol costs more than liquid alcohol, and “one can’t drink it straight like liquid alcohol.”
Palcohol was the brain-child of Mark Phillips, who said he wanted a way to “relax and enjoy a refreshing adult beverage” while hiking, biking, camping, kayaking and doing other activities that “don’t lend themselves to lugging heavy bottles of wine, beer or spirits.” So he teamed with scientists in a quest to develop powered alcohol.
What does North Carolina law provide?
New G.S. 18B-102(a1), enacted by S.L. 2015-98 (H 909), makes it unlawful to “manufacture, sell, transport, import, deliver, furnish, purchase, consume, or possess powdered alcohol.” Powered alcohol is defined as “any powder or crystalline substance capable of being converted into a liquid alcoholic beverage fit for human consumption.” G.S. 18B-101(12b). A violation of the powdered alcohol ban, which became effective June 19, 2015, is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
So now I know. But I have to go. I just received a message from my child’s middle school warning me of the dangers of “smoking” Smarties candies. Who knew that was a thing?