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Idaho Moves To Join Neighboring States In Banning Powdered Alcohol

Palcohol creator Mark Phillips pours the powdered alcohol equivalent of one shot of vodka into a glass in a promotional video on the company's website.
Palcohol creator Mark Phillips pours the powdered alcohol equivalent of one shot of vodka into a glass in a promotional video on the company's website.

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.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.
Tom Banse
Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.