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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Arrival Of Powdered Booze Prompts Calls For Ban

Vermont lawmakers want to make it last call for powdered alcohol. An Arizona company generated national headlines last week with a new product that pushes powdered alcohol as an alternative to liquid booze. But the Vermont Senate wants to make sure “Palcohol,” as the product is branded, doesn’t gain any market share in Vermont.

Rutland Sen. Kevin Mullin says Vermont’s alcohol laws don’t regulate anything other than liquids.

“You can’t buy a bottle of gin at the liquor store if you’re 16. But there’s nothing that I can see in Vermont statute that would prohibit you from buying powdered alcohol, if it was available,” Mullin says. “So think about kids walking around with packets of powdered alcohol in their pocket – hard to detect.”

The Senate passed language Tuesday that calls for prison sentences of as much as two years for sales of powdered alcohol. The legislation also directs a group to study how to regulate powdered alcohol in the future. But Commissioner of Liquor Control Mike Hogan says he doesn’t see any redeeming value in powdered alcohol.

“That’s the bigger question – does the state even want to sell this kind of product? Just from first glance, I don’t think we want to,” Hogan says. “I think it’s kind of irresponsible to put a product like this out in the marketplace. It’s kind of like, like maybe the new Kool Aid, I don’t know.”

Mullin is the Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, and he says he first learned of powdered alcohol when a reporter called to ask him about the issue last week. The product became the subject of a media firestorm after the federal Tax and Trade Bureau approved a bid from the maker of Palcohol to sell their powdered wares in stores.

The bureau has since rescinded that approval, and is reconsidering the application.

Hogan says he too learned of Palcohol only recently. He says his primary concern is abuse by minors, who might be able to conceal small packets of powder more easily than bottles of beer, wine or liquor.

“They can be easily hid, in pockets, backpacks, anything,” Hogan says. “It’s pretty hard to hide a bottle of vodka.”

The Senate language will soon go before House lawmakers.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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